Connecticut’s Coffin Ship Art Exhibit

Rodney Charman’s painting “The Odessa.”

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2017

Aseries of art pieces portraying the struggle for survival aboard the “coffin ships” on which 1.5 million Irish escaped the Great Hunger are now on display at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut. The exhibit, Fleeing Famine: Irish Immigration to North America, 1845-1860, includes six oil paintings of the harrowing, often-deadly conditions on such vessels, several bronze sculptures on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and a visual simulation in which visitors find themselves standing in an artificial rendition of a famine ship’s deck.

“When you go onto the ship [in the museum], it’s obviously not meant to be exact, but it does still give you the feeling that you are boarding a ship,” museum curator and registrar Bethany Sheefer explained to IrishCentral. “With our space, it has its unique challenges, [but we did] include a fire pit that would have been on top of one of these ships and that’s where they would have cooked their meals.”

The deck-feature was inspired, she added, by British artist Rodney Charman’s painting “The Odessa” (pictured above), which shows the turmoil that characterized each day of a famine ship’s gruelling journey.

Though the average mortality rate of up to 30 percent plainly justified the “coffin ship” moniker, many famine refugees achieved prosperity in North America, as seen in the exhibit’s embedded narrative of a young boy named Patrick, a real-life passenger of the Washington Irving, whose family would obtain prominence in the U.S., and the story of the Knights of Columbus founder himself, Fr. Michael J. McGivney, himself the son of famine ship survivors. The exhibition runs through the fall. ♦

One Response to “Connecticut’s Coffin Ship Art Exhibit”

  1. Never forget the sacrifices our ancestors made on our behalf, honor that by giving food, sharing food, growing food and celebrating each meal with love and always remember hunger is unnatural always share your food and have great respect for food and nutrition and your being where you are today. Amen

Leave a Reply




Share



More Articles

Christine Kinealy and Caroilin Callery on the walk from Roscommon to Dublin in memory of the exiles of 1847.
In the Shoes of Refugees

Walking in the footsteps of 1,490 Irish exiled in 1847. ℘℘℘ In 2017, and again in 2019, I was honored to be part...

More

Beside the monument is a bell from the boat, found near Blanc-Sablon in 1968. (Photos courtesy of CBC Radio-Canada).
The Un-Quiet
Ghosts of the Carricks

Bones of Irish children were found 170 years after they died on a “coffin ship” en route to Canada in 1847....

More

"Dan Ward's Stack" by Rockwell Kent. Courtesy of the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Dan Ward’s Stack

From rural Donegal to Russia’s Hermitage Museum: the bizarre journey of an Irish landscape by an American...

More

Striking Gold – Transcontinental
Railroad Turns 150

Irish contributions to American history received a special recognition this week. The 150th anniversary of connecting...

More