Calls for further investigation by the DA as the Great Hunger Museum’s Irish Collection does not have a proper or agreed domicile at Fairfield GAA as Quinnipiac flouts its responsibilities and duty of care with new loan of works of art art.
Today, September 28, the Great Hunger Museum of Ireland at Quinnipiac University is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Instead, the Irish Great Hunger Bord, committed to preserving the world’s largest collection of Great Hunger-related art, is calling for a further investigation by the district attorney into Quinnipiac’s handling of the museum’s closure and works of art.
In a recently published statement, titled “The threat to the Irish Great Hunger Museum is entering a new and dangerous phase”, the Irish Great Hunger Bord says that “the public outcry surrounding the museum’s unwarranted closure has fallen into the deaf ear”. They add that Quinnipiac’s actions since August 2021 are “an act of gross disrespect for their public trust” as they loaned part of the collection to Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Fairfield, a hastily formed entity without building, staff, membership or financial capacity. .”
In September 2021, it was announced that the Gaelic American Club in Fairfield, Connecticut would become the new home of the Great Hunger Museum’s collection.
The Verge states that “Last March, due to the furor over the closure of the museum, Quinnipiac issued a public statement falsely asserting that the collection should be in the care of the Gaelic American Club in Fairfield, Connecticut. This statement stated that the Quinnipiac Board of Trustees had approved the transfer to the Gaelic American Club. However, the Gaelic American Club had never voted among its members to ratify this decision. The lie that the GAC was the official steward has was repeated publicly by Quinnipiac Provost Debra Liebowitz at a rally in Fairfield two weeks ago.
“Then, last week (21.09.22), in a memo written to its members, Gerry Forde, the chairman of the executive committee of the Gaelic American Club disclaimed any responsibility for the collection or for the establishment of a new museum of Famine.”
They also note that under a new interim agreement, “selected works of art will be displayed in a hallway at the Fairfield Museum and History Center for a few weeks before being returned to storage with the collection indefinitely. That Quinnipiac approved the loan of 30 pieces – of which only 24 appear to be on display – is an outrage and a violation, given that Quinnipiac is still the custodian of the works.”
They reiterate that “the loan was made under false pretenses”.
“Allowing unauthorized private citizens to manipulate the art is a final insult and a tipping point. Keen to preserve the collection and honor the legacy of the famine, the Irish Great Hunger Bord calls for a thorough review of these actions by the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office to the due process that the situation demands, that the public deserves, and that the University owes to the heritage community, Edge’s statement continued.
“‘Collections have a special role and a distinct relationship with the communities that engage with them. They are not mere property…Removing them from the collecting entity is also a public act,’ says the professional of renowned museum, Dr. Thomas J. Loughman.
“IGHM was the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring the devastated victims of the disaster and its ramifications for global migration. The collection, acquired through donations from the artists and their estates, was housed in an off-campus building on Whitney Avenue. redesigned for this purpose. The Museum quickly became an international symbol of compassion and human rights. Its future as a memorial site and center of learning was promising.
“Yet that was not the case. Rather than build on the museum’s worldwide fame after the collection’s successful tour of three sites in Ireland, including Dublin Castle, in 2020 Quinnipiac’s new president, Judy Olian, announced that IGHM will be closing immediately and permanently following a vote by the University’s Board of Trustees and despite its recent acceptance of public donations to keep the museum open. President Olian’s claim of the museum’s insolvency has been challenged, and supporter groups have come forward to offer funding to continue its operation. These efforts were pushed back and during the Covid pandemic the collection was locked down and neglected, with no information released regarding the management and storage of the artworks.
“The closure of IGHM has sparked public outrage challenging Quinnipiac’s authority to close an institution subject to special fiduciary duties, including obligations to maintain the integrity of the collection, provide public access and to specialists and to ensure their physical well-being: these are the responsibilities of any museum dedicated to the public good.
“The idea that Quinnipiac would revoke his support for IGHM, an entity” dedicated to educating people about the harms of discrimination and bigotry
– in this case, anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry – at a time when the world
being so preoccupied with these issues doesn’t make much sense,’ former Quinnipiac chairman John Lahey told The New York Times. The decision wasn’t just baffling; it was haphazard and in violation of the museum’s mission to hold these cultural artifacts in trust for the public good.
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“Let’s be clear: temporary loans of part of a collection violate the fiduciary responsibility to protect, preserve and display a collection as donors intended. Many people familiar with the matter suggest that Quinnipiac reopen simply the IGHM closed with the money the University is spending on storage, insurance, attorneys, and temporary exhibits such as the art exhibit at the Fairfield History Center. attempts by Museum supporters over the past year to work with Quinnipiac in fundraising and providing professional support have been flatly rejected by the Although Quinnipiac claims the Museum is not financially viable, he refuses to provide evidence to support this claim.
“Members of the Great Hunger Bord of Ireland have urged Connecticut Attorney General William Tong to investigate the museum’s closure. The Attorney General’s interim report, released August 16, concluded – as trustees should have knowledge – that no transfer of the collection could occur without first obtaining judicial approval through a diversion action in court. Specifically, Quinnipiac remains the custodial owner of the cultural art and therefore has fiduciary duties not only to protect and preserve the collection, but to exhibit it in a qualified museum setting. These abilities cannot be voted off by the trustees, nor can the collections be transferred, without public scrutiny and due process before the Connecticut Superior Court, known as a deviation action.
Respond to obligations
“In an action for deviation, the University must prove that it is unable to meet its obligations; it must prove that it honors the interests of those who have donated to the museum; and that the institution it hopes asset stewards are better prepared than they are to be stewards of the collection.
“We, the Great Hunger Edge of Ireland, cannot sit idly by while the Trustees continue to shirk their fiduciary duties. We urge Attorney General William Tong to fully discharge the duties of his office to” to represent the public interest in protecting any donations, bequests, or devices intended for public or charitable purposes”, and to determine why Quinnipiac University trustees say it cannot operate the museum as the donors intended In addition, we call on directors to honor their individual fiduciary duties:
1. Publicly retract and correct persistent misrepresentations that the Collection is being transferred to the Gaelic American Club, which has now disavowed such representations to its own members.
2. Use misappropriated funds to abandon the operation of the Great Hunger Museum of Ireland in order to immediately reopen the museum and properly preserve and display the collection as living artists and donors wished, or otherwise:
3. Immediately begin the diversion action required to prove that it can no longer operate the museum as intended and seek court approval to transfer the collection to a qualified operational museum now and not years
in the future.
In the absence of such actions, trustees must explain why they refuse to protect the museum’s original vision of honoring Irish history and educating the public.”
The Edge told IrishCentral that he had asked “the public to call or write to Connecticut Attorney General William Tong as good as Administrators of Quinnipiac University. The public’s response will make the difference.”
For more visit www.IGHBord.org