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IGHM of Fairfield and Quinnipiac University Partnership Continues to Make Important Progress

October 7, 2022


We thank the many people and organizations who have shared with us their support and deep affinity for the historically significant collection of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum and the new museum we’re working together to establish in Fairfield. Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield, Inc. (IGHMF) and Quinnipiac University have been working together in close collaboration for many months now on the preservation and future display of the IGHM collection. The collection has a vital role in memorializing the Great Hunger and the associated harms, and both organizations are committed to broad visibility for the artifacts. Following are a few key updates on our collaboration.


IGHMF was established by leaders of the Gaelic-American Club and certified as a 501(c)(3) by the Internal Revenue Service earlier this year. This establishes IGHMF as an official public charity authorized to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts as part of the new museum’s structure. The continued collaboration and support among IGHMF, Quinnipiac University and the GAC and their respective leadership enables a unified vision and operating model for the new museum. GAC President Gerry Forde noted in a recent communication to the club’s members: “The GAC is very excited about the art collection coming to Fairfield as the mission is consistent with our mission of preserving Irish history and culture, and educating present and future generations of the terrible trauma inflicted on the Irish nation. We wish the IGHMF and its President John Foley every success, and recommend that organization to our members for their individual support.”


Individuals and organizations supporting IGHMF continue to grow in numbers and the expertise

they’re lending to our important work.

  • Former executive director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac, Ryan Mahoney, has joined IGHMF as an advisor. As an experienced museum curator, Ryan brings deep knowledge and familiarity with the collection given his previous role at Quinnipiac.

  • Amy Wolfcale, a seasoned PR and corporate communications executive, has agreed to serve as a PR and marketing advisor for IGHMF and help with promotion of the new museum.

  • The national board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and their local division, JFK Division 1, have issued public statements of support for the new museum in Fairfield.

  • Statements of support also have been received from additional individuals and organizations, including: St. Patrick’s GAA Club, author Jerry Mulvihill (“The Truth Behind The Irish Famine”), artist Kieran Touhy, the Fairfield Museum and History Center, peer institutions of higher education, and others.


We are pleased the Attorney General’s office has completed its review of the information provided by Quinnipiac and is supportive of the university’s continued work with IGHMF to ensure the proper legal transfer of the collection. Both IGHMF and QU continue to keep the AG’s office updated on progress with transfer of the collection. The equitable deviation action noted in the AG’s August 16 letter is a review process used for donated charitable assets and applies to a small portion of the collection (approximately two dozen pieces) that were donated by individuals or purchased using a combination of university funds and funds from a donor restricted for the acquisition of art. Those pieces will go through the equitable deviation process; all other pieces in the collection of more than 170 pieces were purchased by QU or IGHM using university funds and are not subject to this action.


A temporary exhibit of select pieces of the IGHM collection are now on display thanks to the generous hospitality of the Fairfield Museum and History Center. QU has produced similar traveling exhibits in the past, and based on requests from both members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation as well as the AG’s office, which asked in its August 16 letter that “the university find opportunities to loan out portions of the collection for exhibits,” the pieces are currently being showcased in a central gallery of the Fairfield Museum at 370 Beach Road, Fairfield. Approximately 150 people attended the opening reception last month to show their support, including state and federal elected officials. The exhibit runs through October 16. Visit the IGHMF web site to learn about more attending the temporary exhibit.


Finally, IGHMF continues to have productive discussions with the owners of the Old Post Road building about our interest in the facility. Its current tenant is in active conversations with both town and state leaders on securing a new home. Their current facility is the ideal location for the new museum, placing it in a more central location that’s accessible to a broader public next to both the GAC and Fairfield Museum and History Center. IGHMF has been working with a NYC-based designer on initial designs for the new museum to be ready to move forward quickly once the building is available. In the meantime, the collection remains stored in a proper climate-controlled facility that is actively monitored and managed by Quinnipiac, as has been done since the museum opened 10 years ago.


IGHMF is honored to serve as the new caretaker and curator of this important story. Both Quinnipiac University and IGHMF continue to welcome all those who are interested in working together to build a positive, successful future for the museum, and to educate future generations about the causes and consequences of the Great Hunger. Your support is greatly appreciated.


Thank you,


John Foley, President, IGHMF

Debra Liebowitz, Provost, Quinnipiac University

FullImages_00001_murphy_2011.13 All That Remains.jpg

"A Unique collection, one that should

be available to the public ... "


John Foley, President of IGHMF is welcomed by Lá Gaeilge Day group at the Gaelic-American Club October 1st


“Chun ár dtodhchaíi a chinntiú, ar dtús ní mór dúinn omós a thabhairt dár stair.:

“In order to secure our future, we must first honor our past.”

Dia dhaoibh go léir. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir as fáilte a chur romham anseo inniú.

Originally my associate, Amy O’Shea was scheduled to speak here today, but she had a family
emergency, so she asked me to step in. Amy is a local and Vice President of Ireland’s Great
Hunger Museum of Fairfield. Now, it’s one thing to have an Irish American speak in an Irish
language event, and quite another, to have a Kerryman speak. One may not be expected to
speak in the native tongue, the other might get a kick in the arse if he didn’t try! So here I am
today before you, and I’m sure the shadow of my old Irish teacher is looming with the rye smile,
and an auld Sally Rod ready for my knuckles.

Sin a bhfuil.

Cúpla blianta ó shin chuaigh mé abhaile go Chiarraí le mo bheirt iníonacha, thug siad faoi
dheara laithreach athrú i mo bhealach mar a dhéanann siad i gconaí. D’fhiafraigh duine amháin
acu, “A dhaid, cad é an rud is fear faoi bheith sa bhaile?” Shíl me ar feadh tamaillín, agus
d’fheager mé, “An rud is fearr ná is feidir liom mo teanga a ligean saor in aisce! Ní gá dom
moillliú chun go dtuigfí mé!

Anois, as bearla.

A few years ago, I went home to Kerry with my two daughters, and they noticed immediately the
change in my demeanor, as they always do. One of them asked me, “Dad, what’s the best thing
about being home?” I thought for a while, and I answered, the best thing is that I can let my
tongue go free, and I do not have to slow down to be understood!

Now I may have been talking about my accent, because Irish was not widely spoken in my part
of Kerry, but the sentiment is the same. There is something comforting about the way we speak,
and the way we are understood. The familiarity of spoken and unspoken understanding. This is
what the Irish language touches within you when spoken, it touches something ancient in your

Thankfully, the Irish language is experiencing a renaissance thanks in no small part to people
like you, who work hard to keep it alive.

Studies have shown that world languages are dying every day. There are many theories as to
why this is the case. Globalization is the easy answer, but I disagree. In order for language, just
like any other tradition to survive, it must be passed on from one generation to the next. It takes
work, it takes sacrifice. You must want it, in order to instill it in the next generation.

This is the reason why organizations like the Gaelic American Club have not only survived, but
thrived over the past 75 years. Each generation has worked to ensure that these traditions are
passed on. But there is a warning here also. it’s easy to get complacent, it’s easy to just go on
autopilot when things are going well. It’s easy to relax and assume it will just carry on and go
from strength to strength. That’s not how it works. If you do not continue to get involved, if you
do not continue to educate, you will look around someday, and there won’t be a next generation
to continue the tradition.

This is why initiatives like building the Great Hunger Museum in Fairfield, dedicated to the telling
of our story, is vital. The museum will work with the local schools and universities to provide
education through art. We will teach all who come through our doors why they are connected to
Ireland and by default why they need to be connected to organizations like yours and the Gaelic
American Club.

What we are doing is not easy, but that does not mean impossible. Like parents passing the
traditions down to their children it’s our responsibility to pass our traditions to the next

“Chun ár dtodhchaíi a chinntiú, ar dtús ní mór dúinn omós a thabhairt dár stair.:

“In order to secure our future, we must first honor our past.”

This is why we must support initiatives like the great hunger museum in Fairfield. The enthusium
of the current exhibit proves it will be welcome here in Fairfield. I know we have many
challenges in our mission to bring the collection here, but we’ve also come a long way so far,
and we are determined to succeed.

We are growing and garnering support from more who are passionate about our history. We
continue to add experts to our committees, with backgrounds in museums, education,
fundraising, public relations, and more. This is not just a group of random people. These are
well-strange professionals, looking to create something special.

Our vision is simple, Quinnipiac will not reopen in Hamden, and no amount of outside force will
change their minds. But there are some who continue to push this narrative. To what end? Their
continued agitation is now becoming the greatest danger to the collection. Quinnipiac is at the
table and they are listening. The path to saving the collection has been cleared. It’s story can be
told. So what if the story is told in a new location? The Irish reinvented themselves in new
surroundings in America, let the collection do the same right here in Fairfield. Yes, it will take
time, but it will take longer without all of your support! A special message to the local Irish
media, you have the power to make this project easy, please be mindful of this.

I’ve seen the power of this collection these past few weeks. I’ve seen how it moves people, and
this is only a fraction of what’s to come. I want you all to be a part of the story.

A dhaoine úisle, ar son ár sínsir a fuair bhaís, agus mé féin mar shliocht marthóir, táim ag lorg
aontacht. Tá obair le déanamh againn.

My friends, on behalf of ancestors, who perished, and as a descendant of the survivors, I again
called for unity. We have work to do!

Go raibh míle maith agaibh!

John Foley 

President, IGHMF

September 17 - October 16

Fairfield Museum and History, Center, 370 Beach Road.


Ireland's Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield and Quinnipiac University Exhibition

We are delighted to announce that after two long years of being behind closed doors, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield and Quinnipiac University will present the exhibition, “An Gorta Mór: Selections from the Collection of Ireland's Great Hunger Museum,” from Sept. 17- Oct. 16 at the Fairfield Museum and History, Center, 370 Beach Road.

Among the nearly 30 pieces from the collection that will be on display include: “Gorta” by Lilian Lucy Davidson; “Famine Ship” by John Behan; “The Leave Taking” by Margaret Lyster

Chamberlain; “The Victim” by Rowan Gillespie; “The World is Full of Murder” by Brian Maguire; “Finishing Touch” by James Brenan; and “Irish Peasant Children” by Daniel Macdonald.
“The Fairfield Museum is delighted to host this preview of the Great Hunger Museum’s extraordinary collection that will soon be coming to Fairfield,” said Executive Director Michael Jehle. “This museum will be a wonderful addition to Fairfield’s rich cultural offerings, and we look forward to working with our friends at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield to help bring this collection to our town.”
The Fairfield Museum and History Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the exhibition is free to museum members. Non-member adults pay $5, while senior citizens and students pay $3. Children ages five and under are free. For more information, visit

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