St. Patrick’s Day is still two months away, but Irish people will celebrate in downtown Albany today as the Irish American Heritage Museum opens at its new location.
Local political and religious officials will cut a green ribbon at 10:45 a.m. to show off the 3,000-square-foot museum, located on the first floor of the former Meginniss Electric Supply Co. building at 370 Broadway. An evening reception will honor the American Irish Legislators Society for its support of the museum project.
“The move to Albany has been in the works for about three years,” said Jeff Cleary, the museum’s executive director.
The museum, established in 1986 by the state Legislature, had been located in East Durham in Greene County and operated only during the summer months.
“We are going to be a facility that not only presents Irish and Irish-American art, but we also will be having book readings, film festivals, demonstrations,” Cleary said. “We want this facility to be thought of more that just a museum but a place you’ll want to come several times for various activities.”
Added Ed Collins of Niskayuna, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees: “We’re carrying out the vision of our founding chairman, the late Joseph J. Dolan Jr. His dream was always to have a year-round museum and the current board of trustees has worked tirelessly for the past three years to realize that dream.”
Dolan died in 2008.
Collins believes the new location will mean new interest from school groups. In the past, he said, the East Durham museum might get a few visits in early June. But schools could not visit on a consistent basis. “We would be open in the fall on request, so we had a few school groups then,” Collins said. “This will make it much easier for school groups to come and visit.”
The new museum comes with about $300,000 spent on renovations and opens with an exhibit, “Dublin: Then and Now,” which shows the contrast between Dublin of the 1950s and ’60s and the Dublin of 2012, reflecting Irish life in both eras. Cleary said the space also includes the Paul O’Dwyer Library and Ancient Order of Hibernians’ archives for scholars and genealogists researching Irish history.
Museum officials had planned to open the facility last fall. “Myself and the board of directors aren’t in the business of building,” Cleary said. “We’ve never done a project like this and I think we were a little naive as to how long the process would take.”
ONE OF A KIND
Cleary thinks the museum is the only one of its kind in the United States.
“We have researched and researched and we believe we are the only one in the country,” he said. “There are cultural centers and different types of Irish and Gaelic clubs, but a museum dedicated to Irish heritage, we believe we’re unique in the country.”
The museum will be open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. The suggested donations for admission are: $3 adults, $2 seniors and free for children 14 years of age and younger.
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