GSHA Conversations with Frank J Cunningham

Muhammad Ali dodges a punch thrown by Joe Frazier during their heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden in 1971. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about your field?

I am the VP of global development for IMWD (INTL Museum Workers Day) and GSHA (Global Sports Heritage Association) in which capacity I reach out to and connect with heritage and museum professionals around the world to engage with our various projects, year-round.

Over the past five years, we have expanded our reach for International Museum Workers Day (IMWD) to some 170 countries and territories around the world. So, you could say, that continues to be a lot of reaching out …

This year, we have founded Global Sports Heritage Association, and the upcoming, first annual Global Sports Heritage Day which will be celebrated on 22nd Feb, 2021 #GSHD2O21.

Stay tuned for lots of info on these two projects.

How did you start in the heritage field?

My father was a teacher and he instilled in his twelve children a great interest in our Irish culture and language, and gave us all the opportunity to further our education in what interested us.

Having been born at the bottom of a hill on which stands a megalithic tomb – The Dolmen of the Four Maols (2000 b.c.) – also helped stir my interest in heritage.

None of this would have mattered if my mother besides rearing her twelve children hadn’t made that sure we kept up with our studies.

Also, though I am not an academically trained curator, years ago I owned an antique store in the United States. Picking and shipping European antiques that I deemed of interest for the American collectors was quite a daunting experience.

These days, in addition to my work with IMWD and GSHA, I am more interested in writing poems which is a form of intangible heritage.

What is the most memorable museum experience you’ve had?

I photographed the galleries at the National Gallery of Jamaica, in 2004. I felt I captured a very real sense of Jamaica’s past history and present reality.

What is the most stimulating museum or heritage experience you’ve had?

Spending a few days at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, and I still needed another week.

What is your favorite sport(s) – to participate in.

It was Outrigger Canoe racing. I was fortunate to be on the winning team for the 4-man New York Outrigger Liberty Challenge at Pier 84 by the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in 2003. There were over 50 teams from all over the world, for example Tahiti, Germany, Hawaii, England, etc

What is your favorite sport(s) – to watch?

American Football. I am a hopeful New York Jets fan.

What is the hardest thing about your work – that people don’t get?

Considering that our audiences are very international, I always find it challenging to manage time differences in dealing with people from around the world.

What is your dream job?

I have it.

Reaching out to connect with people all over the world for a good cause.

Who is your sport hero? Have you met them?

Muhammad Ali.

I never met him but, by chance, I did meet Joe Frazier in a hotel in Ireland in 1971 just after he defeated Ali in their first fight. He was touring with his band ‘Joe Frazer and the Knockouts’.

I was thirteen and he and his band took up half the dining room for lunch. My father asked him could I say hello and I got his autograph. For a while I went around saying “Shake the hand that shook the hand of Joe Frazier”!

What is your favorite sports-related movie, or work of art?

The Athlete, also known as the American Athlete that Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor, did from 1901-1904. It took so long because he was a gymnast who participated in the Paris Olympics 1904

SHARE: Inspirational Quote, OR Workout Playlist.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” George Bernard Shaw Irish Nobel Prize winner (1856-1950).

What advice do you give to young emerging professionals in your field?

Do your homework and stay focused. Persevere.

ADDITIONAL – I grew up playing Gaelic football and Hurling. The boarding school I first attended honoured the ban on playing English soccer and rugby. Today my nephews and nieces play all sports.