Hamden, CT – As is often the case, I found myself browsing the internet for Irish-related things to do in Connecticut when I came across Quinnipiac’s “Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum (Músaem An Ghorta Mór).” It is a museum dedicated to the memory of the Great Hunger, also known as the Irish Potato Famine, which occurred from 1845-1852 resulting in the death of over 1 million Irish men, women and children, as well as the emigration of more than 2 million people. It was the greatest disaster in terms of mortality and suffering that the Irish have ever faced.
According to the museum’s pamphlet, “Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, realized by award-winning architects and designers, is located in Hamden, Connecticut. It brings the world’s largest collection of paintings, sculptures, and other visual media relating to the catastrophe to the general public. The collection is supported by one of the finest collections of extant British papers on Ireland from 1780-1923.”
I decided to pay a visit to the museum and check it out for myself. The exhibits address contemporary English and Irish reactions to the Great Hunger, as well as views of the Famine in successive generations. It calls for greater acknowledgement and acceptance of what happened because there seems to have been a general silence by those directly involved as well as their descendants. There is a willingness to just ignore the dark past, and that is part of what the museum tries to address. Quinnipiac says that the museum “offers a unique opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to explore the largely unrepresented, unspoken and unresolved causes and consequences of this tragedy, as well as to appreciate the art that it continues to inspire.”
The museum has a mix of 19th, 20th, and 21st century art made up of paintings, newspapers, and sculptures. Every last bit of it was very moving and if I had more time I could have spent hours in there. There were two pieces that stood out the most to me: The first was a painting called “Burying the Child” by Lilian Lucy Davidson; the second was a bronze slab with names inscribed into it that were discovered on a list found alongside bones from a mass grave in New York City that held the remains of 650 sick Irish men and women who had died while in quarantine after their arrival in America. These remains were discovered under a municipal parking lot on Staten Island.
I would highly recommend anyone interested in their Irish heritage and finding out more about themselves, or anyone interested in history at all, to check out the museum. It will be worth the trip.