Coming Home: An Introduction

Appreciating the view

President Lahey and Niamh O’Sullivan, curator of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, discuss and view “Black ’47” by Micheal Farrell at a recent lecture at the museum.

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The most prestigious collection of Famine-related art in the world will visit Ireland in 2018. However, the story of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum begins over 20 years ago, at the New York City parade where, as Grand Marshall, I chose to speak about the 150th anniversary of Black ’47 — the worst year of the Irish Famine. 

"A generous gift has grown into the most prestigious collection of Irish Famine-related art in the world."

In the months leading up to the parade, I spoke at many public events about Black ’47, where the late Murray Lender, a Quinnipiac University alumnus and vice chairman of our Board of Trustees, listened to stories of the Great Hunger and its devastating impact on Ireland and the Irish people.

Murray attended the parade to hear me speak, and this crystallised his vision. He empathised with the Great Hunger story and its significance for Ireland and its diaspora here in the US. His vision, and the generous financial support of both Murray and his brother Marvin, led to the creation of the Lender Family Special Collection Room, An Gorta Mór, at Quinnipiac University. In 15 years, what started as a generous gift, has grown into the most prestigious collection of Famine-related art in the world at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum. 

As I approach the end of my term as President at Quinnipiac, it is fitting that we will bring 50 artworks from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum to Ireland for the very first time.  

The artworks will tell a story of a nation leaving and arriving, of renewal and regeneration, of old traditions and customs. Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger is an opportunity to remember Ireland's past, to reflect on the sense of loss, but also to inspire a feeling of hope through a celebration of the visual arts. 

I am immensely proud of this collection and what it represents.  This is a significant moment for the museum; we believe that Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger will be a unifying link between those who left, and those who stayed. It is an honor to bring this profoundly moving exhibition home, where the story began.

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