Permanent closure of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

25 Aug 2021

Following its temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, has announced the permanent closure of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Músaem An Ghorta Mhóir.

Opening in 2012, under Quinnipiac University's former President John Lahey, the museum presented a comprehensive collection of art and artifacts commemorating Ireland’s Great Hunger. Ireland’s Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, then minister of transport, tourism, and sport, officiated at the museum’s opening. In 2018, a successful touring exhibition of Irish Art, Coming Home, was exhibited in Derry, Dublin and Cork.

Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan noted in a statement that the university is looking at a potential relocation of the museum: “Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum remains closed and the university is in active conversations with potential partners with the goal of placing the collection on display at an organization that will increase access to national and international audiences.”

He added that the university “continues its research program on the Great Hunger through the institute as well as the Great Hunger collection housed in the Lender Special Collection Room of the Arnold Bernhard Library on the Mount Carmel Campus.”

In 2019, current President July Olian and the board of trustees established a goal for the museum to reach financial self-sufficiency by June of 2020, covering its annual operating budget of approximately $300,000. The university’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously in early August to permanently close Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, citing low attendance of fewer than 20 visitors per day and financial reasons as it only generated funds to cover nearly 25% of its operational budget.

In an article for Irish Central, Turlough McConnell, curator of the Quinnipiac University exhibition of Ireland’s Great Hunger at the Consulate General of Ireland, New York (2010) and a founding advisor on Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum (2012), says: "As we approach 2022, the 10th anniversary of the museum's opening, we cannot allow the closure to proceed without a push from the broader community to keep the doors open and this valuable teaching opportunity alive. Quinnipiac’s students and the Irish American community deserve no less."