The world's "greatest collection of Irish Famine art and famine data" has been assembled for future generations to study one of the world's great modern historical tragedies, the US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin F O'Malley has said.
Launching a series of essays on the subject last night, from varying academic disciplines, Mr O'Malley addressed the grim reality faced by a generation of Irish emigrants to the United States, where that collection is now housed.
Despite the Famine's place in history, research on it remains in its infancy. That was considerably addressed by the opening of the Irish Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut in 2012 and whose collection is now augmented by the Famine Folios series of academic texts.
At the publication of the first four works last night, Mr O’Malley praised the museum saying: “By both preserving and also by archiving many of the articles and illustrations related to the famine, as well as collecting famine paintings and sculptures and other art work, [the work] enables the next generation to better understand this devastating time.
“Artists should be a part of history. Artists can depict things that words cannot.”
Last night's launch at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin unveiled an initial four works by authors Luke Gibbons, Christine Kinealy, Catherine Marshall and museum curator Prof Niamh O'Sullivan.
“The essays are interdisciplinary in nature, beautifully illustrated, draw on a wide range of methodologies and make available new research on famine studies by internationally established writers of art,” Prof O’Sullivan said.
“The visual dimensions of the loss of life, the leaching of the land, the erosions of language and culture remained unaddressed until Quinnipiac University in Connecticut opened its art museum in 2012.”
The proposed series of 14 already looks set to be expanded with work from both the US and Ireland. They have been published in conjunction with Cork University Press and are edited by Grace Brady.