Flags flying at The American Irish Historical Society on St. Patrick's morning. Irish Echo photo.

A New Day For AIHS

St. Patrick's Day 2023 will go down in the books as a new day for the American Irish Historical Society.

The AIHS has been closed for several years due to starkly competing visions for its future, the dismissal of senior figures in the society's governing structure, and a subsequent attempt to sell its Gilded Age mansion at 991 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The concern expressed by the Irish community, by way of a petition that gathered more than 40,000 signatures, was but one factor in bringing the for sale sign down.

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Last December, New York State Attorney General Letitia James intervened in the growing tussle over the society's future and created a three member interim board.

That board was charged with restoring the historical mission of the society and putting it on a firm footing for the future.

On Friday, St. Patrick's Day, the interim board, made up of John MacIntosh, Interim Board Chair
Gregory Pressman, Interim Board Secretary, and Elizabeth Stack, PhD, Officer and Executive Director of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, issued a statement outlining what will happen next as the society moves towards a reopening of its doors.

It stated: "As the interim board of directors of the American Irish Historical Society (AIHS), we have made considerable progress since being entrusted with the interim leadership in December 2022.

The Society’s auditors have completed the 2020 audit and are undertaking audits for 2021 and 2022. Utility services have been restored to the mansion at 991 Fifth Avenue, various repairs have been made to the building and a detailed assessment of the building’s physical condition has been done.

We have also engaged professional archivists to review and categorize the contents of the building and the collections of AIHS.

Having laid this foundation, we are now beginning the process of selecting and appointing a permanent governing board for the Society."

The statement requests that anyone interested complete a questionnaire by April 14. It asks that possible applicants encourage others to consider applying.

The statement continues: "We will review interested candidates during the last two weeks of April with input from BoardStrong, an organization specializing in assisting nonprofits in board governance and recruitment.

"During May we expect to meet with potential board members in person before making final invitations in June. The permanent governing board will have nine members of which at least five will be selected during this initial phase of the recruitment phase.

"Under the law, it is our fiduciary duty to elect the permanent board that we believe will
best take the organization forward. In fact, this is our most important task as the interim

"We understand the foundational and historical significance of the Society, and the importance of maintaining and preserving its assets for the Irish diaspora in the US. We are mindful of the trust which has been placed on us, and deeply value the ongoing support of stakeholders across the community.

"We ask for the continued support of all stakeholders as we complete our work, and know that the engagement of the community will be essential for the new board once it is in place. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!"

In a statement, Attorney General James, who walked in the St. Patrick's Day Parade alongside Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: “For decades, the American Irish Historical Society has been a home for the Irish American community to celebrate and honor their culture and traditions.

"My office was proud to work with the community to preserve this vital organization and help install an interim leadership team to oversee the transition. Today, the interim board is taking an important next step and beginning the search for a permanent board for AIHS.

"Irish Americans have contributed so much to New York’s past and present, and because of our collective efforts, AIHS will be able to thrive for generations to come.”

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