Ireland's Great Hunger Museum

3011 Whitney Avenue • Hamden, CT • New Haven County

Historical Significance

The mission of Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University is to collect, preserve, exhibit and study its collection of art, artifacts and literature relating to the Irish Famine/Great Hunger that occurred from 1845–52. In doing so, it seeks to educate audiences of all ages about the underlying political, social, economic and historic causes to the Great Hunger, and the magnitude of the disaster on Ireland and its people. The museum contains the world's largest collection of Great Hunger-related art by noted contemporary Irish and Irish American artists as well as a number of period paintings by some of Ireland's most important 19th-century artists.

Photo: View east showing façade and sign. (Tod Bryant)

The Museum has a growing collection of famine-related documents and materials, including a database of extensive pictorial news documents, and offers programs and symposia open to the public.

Hamden Assessor's records indicate that the building was built in 1890. Research by the local historical society, however, indicates that the actual construction date may be c.1909. The building was built and served as a public school until c.1922. From 1922 until c.1983, the building was a public library. The Town of Hamden sold the property in 1983 and the building was used for offices until it was purchased by Quinnipiac University in 2011. Exterior and interior alterations were completed and the building opened as Ireland's Great Hunger Museum in 2012.

The museum was designed to resemble an Irish workhouse on the exterior and to convey the sense of the "coffin ships" that transported the Famine Irish out of Ireland on the interior. The main entrance is at the lower level, designed with an unusually low ceiling to create the sense of entering the ship's "lower deck," while upstairs there is a much higher ceiling to emulate the openness of being at sea.


"Ireland's Great Hunger Museum."
[ view source ]

"Ireland's Great Hunger Museum." Hamden Historical Society, unpublished research.

Diaz, Jason. "Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac provides poignant St. Patrick's Day backdrop." New Haven Register. March 15, 2015.

Notable Features of Building or Site

This is a rectangular side gable building that faces west toward Whitney Avenue, Its main entrance is in a vestibule with a curved roof that projects from the center of the facade.

Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings

The museum is in a mixed residential and commercial area on a busy main thoroughfare.

Additional Information

Date(s):  Built 1890
Style(s):  Modern
Historic Use:  public school, public library, offices
Present Use:  Museum
Architect:  Leonard Wyeth

Exterior visible from public road.
Interior accessible (during museum hours and events).

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