Boston Irish Famine Memorial
The Boston Irish Famine Memorial is a memorial park located on a plaza between Washington Street and School Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The park contains two groups of statues to contrast an Irish family suffering during the Great Famine of 1845–1852 with a prosperous family that had emigrated to America. Funded by a trust led by Boston businessman Thomas Flatley, the park was opened in 1998. It has received contrasting reviews and has since been called "the most mocked and reviled public sculpture in Boston".
The land for the memorial park was leased to the memorial trust by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 1998. The $1 million trust was led by Thomas Flatley, an Irish-American real estate tycoon based in Boston, and was supported by Peter Lynch and others, particularly from Boston's Irish-American community.
The statues are the centerpiece of the park and were sculpted by Robert Shure. The two groups represent two families, one starved and ragged owing to the deprivations of the famine, the other well-fed having found prosperity in America. It is said to emphasize the transformation from an "anxious immigrant" to a "future of freedom and opportunity" in America for the Irish, the first of a long line of immigrants to Boston and America. The sculptures are accompanied by eight narrative plaques. The memorial lies on Boston's Freedom Trail (listed under the Old Corner Bookstore) and is visited by more than 3 million people per year.
The statues and park were unveiled on June 28, 1998, to mark 150 years since the height of the Great Famine. Although well received in Boston at the time, the statues were criticized by Fintan O'Toole of the Irish Times who said they represented "pious cliches and dead conventions". In 2013, Sebastian Smee, art critic for The Boston Globe, called it "the most mocked and reviled public sculpture in Boston". Others have decried the monument as a commemoration of the accomplishments of Irish Americans rather than a memorial to the Famine. Maintenance work has been cut back since Flatley's death in 2008. The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District and a nearby Walgreens pharmacy help with cleaning the park area, but the site was described in 2013 as a "magnet for vagrants and pigeons".
The memorial was the site of a July 2014 rally in support of the sheltering of immigrant children in Boston. It was also the site, in January 2017, of a protest against a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
- "Boston Irish Famine Memorial needs proper care". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- "Boston Globe art critic slams Irish Famine memorial as "mocked and reviled"". IrishCentral.com. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- Edkins, Jenny (2003). Trauma and the Memory of Politics. Cambridge University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780521534208. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- "Old Corner Bookstore". Boston Freedom Trail. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- "Leaders from Boston's communities of color rally in support of plan to house immigrant children". The Boston Globe. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "Trump actions on immigration spark East Boston protest". The Boston Globe. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
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