Ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany has moved to another downtown location.
The museum is now sharing a courtyard with the Olde English Pub in Quackenbush Square. At the soft opening, surrounded by Irish step dancing costumes and live Celtic music, Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the center had outgrown its old space on Broadway across from SUNY Central.
“They host many historic exhibits,” Sheehan said, “As well as presenting lectures, music evenings, genealogy sessions, cultural educational stage and film events.”
Executive Director Elizabeth Stack, who is from Ireland, says the museum’s last space didn’t have room for the live events they want to host.
“This is much better,” Stack said. “Because now we have the dedicated museum that won’t change. And it’s much bigger - the square footage in there. So we are going to highlight Irish contributions to American labor, to American military, to American politics and culture and then out here in this gallery we can change it up and host other museums or other groups who just want for one month to show something. And of course we have the theatre - so that’s great, too.”
Stack says the museum is really about immigration overall.
“Irish people came in in the 1800s – and particularly Catholics – faced horrific discrimination,” Stack said. “You know, people thought they were uneducated, that they were dirty and clannish, and very superstitious, and so we have to educate people that every group of ‘the other’ is new and is different and until you kind of get settled and show that you can contribute to the society you’re not really welcomed.”
In the wake of Brexit, Sheehan says Albany is an example of unity.
“I think it’s also telling about the climate here in the City of Albany that the Irish American Heritage Museum can co-exist across the street, across the courtyard, from the Olde English Pub,” Sheehan said. “I say that somewhat jokingly – but it does speak to our heritage as a city of immigrants.”
“They actually make a beautiful shepherd’s pie, so I’m really happy,” Stack said. “And they host Irish music once a month, too, so they’ll be fine. The border is intact but transferable."
Stack says people of all backgrounds are welcome – it’s not just for people with Irish heritage.
“Basically we say ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ which is ‘100,000 welcomes’ - so we’re excited for everyone to come,” Stack said. “You do not have to be Irish to come down and enjoy the culture. And particularly at night our music events – I think music speaks to every culture. So I would love to have non-Irish come. We’d love to have them come down and learn about our culture.”
The Museum was founded in 1986.
For more information about upcoming events at the Irish American Heritage Museum, you can visit https://www.irish-us.org/.