Letter to The Irish Times regarding "The Gaelic
- June 3 1997
- The Irish Times:
- I was a contributor to "The Gaelic Gotham Report",
which was the subject of Joe Carroll's comments in his "Letter from
America" (May 24, 1997). His statements while intended, I suppose, to
amuse, lead only to puzzlement.
- For example, he suggests that the Report is vague or
unclear about what was lacking in the distressing "Gaelic Gotham"
exhibition on the Irish in New York assembled by the Museum of the City
of New York last year.
Vague? Unclear? Chapter V alone lists 111 factual errors in the
exhibition and details specific areas of interpretive failure. Chapter
IV gives all known press reviews of the exhibition published during the
first three months of the exhibition,including observations from The
Irish Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Were
these reviews somehow ambiguous about gaps and failures in the
exhibition? And Appendix D includes specific criticisms and resolutions
regarding Museum actions articulated by the Council for Scholarly
Evaluation of Gaelic Gotham, the academics who contributed to the
development of the Report. Was Appendix D missing from Joe Carroll's
copy of The Gaelic Gotham Report?
- In addition, Joe Carroll's statements about Donal
Hamill, the Irish Consul in New York City at the time of the
pre-exhibition controversy, are puzzling. According to these
statements, Mr. Hamill tried to mediate the controversy but was not
successful. What is troubling here is that Joe Carroll does not say
enough. Why doesn't he include the fact that Mr. Hamill was not a
disinterested mediator but was, unfortunately, dragged into the dispute
by Museum officials to patch together for the show the community
support previously destroyed by their own Director?
- Finally, Joe Carroll cites some of the secondary
criticisms of the Gaelic Gotham exhibition made by Drs. Alan Feldman
and John Tchen. What is bewildering here is why he fails to say
anything about the major points they made about the exhibition in a
public seminar at Columbia University and reproduced in the Report,
namely that the Museum's show was characterized by a failure of
imagination and interpretive accomplishment largely caused by
administrative ineptitude, institutionalized elitism, and questionable
- Of course, what is most puzzling in all of this is
that Joe Carroll finds the Museum's treatment of the Irish in New York,
and their history, simply a laughing matter.
- Yours truly,
- Frank Naughton, Ph.D.
- Council for Scholarly Evaluation of Gaelic Gotham