Celebrate the harvest season at Nowashe Village, an outdoor museum of Indigenous life operated by the Friends of Wood Memorial Library & Museum. Enjoy a multimedia self-guided tour, exhibition of artifacts, and access to educators who can answer questions. “Explore More” programs feature Indigenous presenters. Open Saturdays, 1 - 3 p.m. through November 1
Nowashe Village, 787 Main Street, South Windsor. Nowashe.org
The Cannon Ball House & More
Explore local and national history through the lens of identity and memory at Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center this fall! Visitors will discover an expanded site experience—including new tours and new exhibits—that connects past and present through compelling storytelling. Site admission includes a guided tour, entry to exhibits in the Carriage Barn, and access to the beautiful four-acre grounds and walled garden. Choose the “Museum Tour” and an interpreter will lead you through the historic tavern museum’s period rooms and share stories about former residents. Choose the “Walking Tour” and learn about the Gilberts and their high-society life at what they referred to as the “Cannon Ball House.” For more information and to learn about upcoming in-person and virtual programs, visit the museum’s website and follow it on social media: @KeelerTavernMuseum on Facebook and Instagram and @KeelerTavern on Twitter.
Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center, 152 Main Street, Ridgefield. Keelertavernmuseum.org; 203-438-5485
“Oh, I remember my grandparents had an old icebox like that!” “Look, kids, that’s what a telephone used to look like!” So say visitors at one of the most popular exhibitions at the Wilton Historical Society, Just Like Grandma Used to Make: A Hands-on Experience of 300 Years of Kitchen History. The exhibition won a Connecticut League of History Organizations 2020 Award of Merit for Individual Achievement in Exhibition Design.
Visitors are invited to handle ice tongs, foot warmers, sugar nips, a 1910 egg beater, butter molds, a butter churn, and flat irons and to peek into cabinets, drawers, and even the oven. Kids love pumping water into the old sink and finding out how heavy blocks of ice can be! Explore this fun, interactive exhibition as part of your next visit.
Wilton Historical Society, 224 Danbury Road/Route 7, Wilton. 203-762-7257; wiltonhistorical.org
Sewing & Learning Workshop
Back by popular demand, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s Craftivism series presents an online workshop, Sewing & Learning: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Politics of Pocket Purses, December 11 and January 15 (new date), 2 – 4:30 pm. Craftivism merges crafting and social activism. This workshop blends crafting, fashion, history, and “making for a cause” through investigating the micro-history of pocket-sized bags and the women who used them to address a range of social and cultural issues.
Participants will learn the history of the pocket purse and how to make one, step-by-step. Facilitators include Edjohnetta Miller, an internationally known, Hartford-based quilt artist, Dr. Shirley Wajda, Director of Enfield Shaker Museum and a Ph.D. in American Civilization, and Rebecca Bayreuther Donohue, historic clothing consultant. Stowe Center staff will also offer historical insight and tips on creating the perfect purse. Register to receive a kit of materials and instructions for logging into the class and downloading the purse pattern.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest Street, Hartford. 860-522-9258; HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org
New Connecticut-Based Memoir
Nothing Special is a disarmingly candid tale of two sisters growing up in the 1970s in rural Connecticut. Older sister Chris, who has Down syndrome, is a charming extrovert, while the author, her younger, typically-developing sister Dianne Bilyak shoulders the burdens of their parents. Bilyak details their lives through heartrending and hilarious vignettes. Published by Wesleyan University Press in March 2021. Visit hfsbooks.com/books/nothing-special-bilyak/.
Textiles Tell Their Stories
At Connecticut Landmarks’s Hempsted Houses in New London, historically-informed clothing, shoes, accessories, and bedding help tell the story of what the enslaved people who lived there—Adam Jackson and a woman known only as Dinah—would have worn for work, church, and daily life in the 18th and 19th centuries. “The American institution of slavery was built on textiles,” fashion historian Renee Walker-Tuttle said, “from the clothing enslaved people wore, to the things they used in their daily lives, to the items they produced, so using textiles to tell their stories is so important.”
Visit this fall to see the new exhibit elements, and join a walking tour of one of New England’s earliest graveyards led by Hempsted Houses staff and the New London NAACP on September 26, 2 – 3:30 p.m., to learn more about the people of African descent who are buried there.
Hempsted Houses, 11 Hempstead Street, New London. ctlandmarks.org/properties/hempsted-houses/; 860-443-7949
The Art of Automotive Design
Featuring dazzling paintings that portray a spectrum of vehicles from the mid-20th century to the present, LUSTER: Realism and Hyperrealism in Contemporary Automobile and Motorcycle Painting, on view October 23, 2021 – January 2, 2022, is a celebration of mechanical and artistic design and style that will delight viewers of all ages. This traveling exhibition, produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., includes more than 50 paintings in a range of media and scales by 15 realist and hyperrealist painters whose primary subject is automobiles and motorcycles. The work embodies the very best of automotive painting today. The exhibition includes a broad range of car and motorcycle styles and designs from vintage vehicles to classics of the 1950s and 1960s, from road and track racing vehicles to off-road vehicles, exotics, and more.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street, New London. 860-443-2545; lymanallyn.org
Magician Albert Walker Celebrated
Albert Walker was a 19th-century farmer—and amateur magician—living in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Through his myriad odd jobs, Walker illustrates a pivotal moment in Connecticut history. Changes in technology, economics, and labor during the Industrial Revolution redefined work and leisure, raising questions that we are still asking today. A special exhibition about Walker, on view September 16, 2021 through April 30, 2022, explores these questions, using Walker’s diaries, objects including his magician’s trunk (above), and ephemera to better understand the personal experience of finding and keeping work in an evolving market, pursuing passions and upholding obligations, and maintaining a foothold in a shrinking industry. It invites visitors to think about their own experiences and to use the past to inform their present.
Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford. chs.org; 860-236-5621
An Insider’s View
Litchfield Historical Society has reopened its museums to in-person visitation. All new for 2021, Antiquarian to Accredited: A Look Inside the Historical Society invites visitors to learn more about the institution while showcasing objects and stories from the point of view of the museum’s stakeholders. Those stakeholders include past and present staff, board members, volunteers, community members, and exhibition contributors. Antiquarian to Accredited gives an insider’s perspective as to how the society collects, interprets, and shares community history.
Litchfield Historical Society, 7 South Street, Litchfield. litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org; 860-567-4501
Hartford’s Library in the Neighborhoods
In October the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library will launch an online and limited in-person, multi-site special exhibition about the history of Hartford Public Library’s branches and their impact on the City of Hartford’s neighborhoods in the 20th century. The exhibition (title forthcoming) will feature photographs, documents, and newspaper articles drawn from the library’s institutional archive, such as the image (above) of children picketing to keep the Dwight Branch Library open in March 1971. The exhibition will also illuminate the capital city’s neighborhood history as those neighborhoods have evolved demographically, culturally, and politically, pulling from other collections in the archive. The exhibition will run in conjunction with the library’s NEA Big Read program featuring The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street, Hartford. Hhc.hplct.org
Fresh Produce and Music
The Old State House Farmers Market is open for shoppers on Tuesday and Friday through October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Old State House is proud to offer a vibrant marketplace in downtown Hartford where local farmers and artisans come together with the community to share the best of what Connecticut has to offer!
The annual concert series also returns on Fridays at noon through October 9. Concerts are held on the East Lawn and will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube. The series is sponsored by the Richard P. Garmany Fund of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the Evelyn M. Preston Memorial Fund.
Connecticut Democracy Center at Connecticut’s Old State House, 800 Main Street, Hartford. CTOldStateHouse.org; 860-522-6766
Lift Your Spirits
As Connecticut gradually reopens, outdoor activities offer a way to socialize and experience some of the state’s lesser-known historic sites. Why not follow the Victorian sensibility and enjoy a walk or picnic in one of Connecticut’s rural cemeteries? Designed (or redesigned) in the mid- and late-19th century, rural cemeteries feature park-like settings, undulating landscape features, exotic and cultivated flora, and grave markers that can only be described as works of art. Rural cemeteries were designed to be for the living as much as for the dead, allowing families to spend the day visiting their relatives while enjoying fresh air. The Victorians' fascination with spiritualism helped to promulgate the popularity of these cemeteries, which can be found all across the state.
Visit nps.gov to view cemeteries in Connecticut listed on the National Register of Historic Places, such as Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, listed on the National Register in 1997 (pictured above, and see story, page 46). Most large cemeteries are open to the public, but remember to check for visiting hours.
State Historic Preservation Office, State of Connecticut. ct.gov/historic-preservation
New Haven Photos Online
Old photographs fascinate and educate. The New Haven Preservation Trust is gradually making 5,000 photographs taken between 1979 and 1983 available on its website. These images form part of New Haven’s Historic Resources Inventory, a monumental survey of the city’s historic buildings and places. Visit nhpt.org/historic-resources-inventory to explore this fascinating album of images.
Focus on Italian Women Artists
The Wadsworth Atheneum’s first exhibition dedicated to Italian women artists, By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500 – 1800, on view September 30, 2021 to January 9, 2022, celebrates the vibrant yet overlooked role of women artists in Italy around 1600 and explores how these artists succeeded in the male-dominated art world of the time. By Her Hand recognizes the accomplishments of a diverse and dynamic group of artists, from Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most fascinating 17th-century Italian painters, to court painter Sofonisba Anguissola and Venetian pastel artist Rosalba Carriera. Visitors will also be introduced to artists who are virtually unknown to us today. See Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as a Lute Player (above) from the Wadsworth’s collection alongside a related painting from the National Gallery, London and examples of her pioneering depictions of strong women, such as her Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street, Hartford. thewadsworth.org; 860-278-2670
Victorian Library in Lebanon
Although Lebanon is best known for its colonial and Revolutionary War history, the town’s landscape is dotted with wonderful rural examples of Victorian architecture. One of the more unusual of these was moved to the Lebanon Historical Society grounds. In 1869 members of the First Congregational Church erected “on the Parsonage grounds a suitable building to be used as a Pastor’s library.” Four years earlier, Connecticut governor William Buckingham had donated funds in memory of his parents for purchasing books, and space was needed to hold these volumes. To assure the long-term preservation of this unusual building, the church donated it and several hundred books that were once part of the pastor’s library collection to the historical society. Detailed original records of the construction and furnishing of the 17- by-24-foot building guided its restoration after its move to the museum grounds. The library is open for tours many summer Saturday afternoons or by appointment.
Lebanon Historical Society Museum, 856 Trumbull Highway, Lebanon. 860-642-6579; historyofLebanon.org
Witness Stones Installed
Two commemorative Witness Stones memorials recalling the lives of Pink Primus and Stepna Primus, two enslaved persons who once lived in New Haven’s Morris House, now known as the Pardee-Morris House, were installed by students of the Cold Spring School and the Foote School this spring. Working with the Witness Stones Project, students pieced together timelines and interpreted the information which offered a glimpse into the lives of this married couple.
Witness Stones memorials are markers bearing the names of enslaved individuals, their trades, and whether they were emancipated or died enslaved. One stone honors Stepna Primus, a farmer enslaved by Amos Morris, Isaac Forbes, and Enos Hemingway. Primus was emancipated in 1796, purchased property, and died in 1818. The second stone honors his wife Pink Primus, who was enslaved by Morris as well. She was emancipated in 1800, owned the property after her husband died, and died circa 1850. Find out more at witnessstonesproject.org/tag/pinkprimusct51/.
New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Avenue, New Haven. newhavenmuseum.org; 203-562-4183
Visit the National Historic Landmark Victorian home of the great American author Mark Twain in Hartford. The Mark Twain House & Museum’s popular Ghost Tours return this fall, from late September through October. Visitors will hear the ghostly tales and stories of spirits that surround the Mark Twain House, learn about the Victorians’ fascination with spiritualism, and find out why SyFy Channel’s popular paranormal series Ghost Hunters brought its investigative team to the house! Ghost Tours are offered seasonally and are available by reservation only. Please visit the museum’s website for the latest information about hours, tickets, and upcoming events.
The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford. 860-247-0998; MarkTwainHouse.org
The Art of John Henry Twachtman
Life and Art: The Greenwich Paintings of John Henry Twachtman is an ambitious exhibition showcasing artwork by the American Impressionist artist John Henry Twachtman, focusing on his time in Greenwich. Due to flooding from Hurricane Ida, the October 6 opening date has been postponed. Life and Art explores the artist’s relationship to his Greenwich home and surrounding landscape where he lived from 1890 to 1899. During this period Twachtman reached artistic maturity and produced many of his best-known works. Life and Art features work on loan from museums and private collections, including September Sunshine, c. 1891 – 1893, from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. The exhibition was curated by independent scholar Lisa N. Peters. Ph.D., author of John Henry Twachtman: An American Impressionist (High Museum of Art, 1999). Life and Art is supported the Henry Luce Foundation for American Art and the Jane Henson Foundation. The Wyeth Foundation for American Art supported the publication of the exhibition’s fully illustrated catalogue.
Greenwich Historical Society, 47 Strickland Road, Cos Cob. Greenwichhistory.org; 203-869-6899
Haunted for Halloween
West Hartford Hauntings, the spooky theatrical tour of Old North Cemetery, returns on Fridays and Saturdays, October 22, 23, 29 & 30. You won’t want to miss this outdoor theater experience, perfect for the Halloween season!
Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, 227 South Main Street, West Hartford. 860-521-5362; noahwebsterhouse.org
New Spaces at Hill-Stead
Soon to celebrate its 75th Anniversary, Hill-Stead Museum has unveiled a renovation project to ensure its extraordinary legacy. The museum has added a beautiful 1,300- square-foot exhibition gallery, a state-of-the-art media space, a terrace for public and private gatherings, a more welcoming public entrance, and an expanded museum shop. Visitors will enjoy year-round exhibitions and public programming for generations to come.
Hill-Stead Museum, 35 Mountain Road, Farmington. Hillstead.org; 860-677-4787
Historical Barriers Explored
Many people take the ability to move easily and freely for granted. From the Amistad Case of 1841 to the struggle for equality today, Connecticut has a long and complicated history in terms of African American mobility. The United States created barriers by law and prejudice for African Americans in travel, housing, education, and excessive policing. Across time, this inequality generated response from local community members and activists to encourage positive change. Inspired by Dr. Gretchen Sullivan Sorin’s book Driving While Black, Crossing Barriers: Mobility in Connecticut, opening October 14, explores the successes, struggles, and ongoing efforts of activists fighting for racial equality in Connecticut. But the question remains: what barriers still exist, and what can we do to eliminate them?
Through the Looking Glass, a special exhibition that explores the progression of the center’s collection and underscores its relevance to the here and now, continues through October 3.
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street, Hartford. AmistadCenter.org; 860-838-4089
Small Cemeteries Face Challenges
Brookfield’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, a Connecticut State Historic Site, has joined CTExplored’s Organizational Partnership program to raise awareness about the plight of small cemetery associations.
Last year Laurel Hill began collaborating closely with Central Cemetery of Brookfield, endorsing the idea that cemeteries across the state need to regionalize, professionalize, and modernize their operations.
In May Laurel Hill hosted a day-long awareness-raising event featuring several groups and individual experts, including professional conservator Jonathan Appel of Southington, who demonstrated headstone restoration. Beekeeper Mike Rice of Roxbury ran a workshop and installed beehives. East Hartford photographer Peter Glass conducted a photography workshop. West Harford singer and cemetery historian David Shortell performed throughout the day. New Haven photographer Chris Randall ran a photography booth. Jim Harron of Simon and Vail in Brookfield provided hot beverages. Scout Troop 5 staffed golf carts provided by Mickey Hawkes Golf Vehicles of Clinton.
Laurel Hill Cemetery, 100 Laurel Hill Road, Brookfield. Centralcemetery.net
Objects Inspired by the Sea
Mystic Seaport Museum opens a new exhibition, Sea as Muse, in September. The exhibition will bring objects from the museum’s wide-ranging collection of decorative arts together to tell stories of inspiration and artistry. Silver yachting trophies are at the center of the exhibition. Their elegant and fanciful designs were inspired by the sea and seafaring, including dolphins and mermaids, Neptune, and the Vikings. Also on view will be hand-carved wooden furniture and decorative panels from the massive yacht Aloha II, stained-glass windows, pictorial prints, and decorative objects created for middle-class American homes. Visitors will come to appreciate the hidden histories of the people who made the objects and the skill and imagination required to fashion ingots of metal and hunks of wood into graceful, exquisite works of craft and elegance.
Mystic Seaport Museum, 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic. Mysticseaport.org; 860-572-0711
Currier & Ives in Old Lyme
From October 2, 2021 through January 24, 2022, the Florence Griswold Museum presents Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives, an exhibition from the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Currier & Ives was a powerhouse of 19th-century publishing and had an immeasurable influence on American visual culture. Founded in New York in 1834 by Nathaniel Currier, the company expanded to include a new partner, James Merritt Ives, after 1857. Currier & Ives produced millions of affordably priced copies of more than 7,000 original lithographs, thereby living up to its self-appointed title as “the Grand Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints.” Its prints were first and foremost commodities, and the choice of subjects was often determined by popularity and sales figures. Along with their popular appeal, these images offer a new opportunity to uncover the complexities and contradictions of our history and help shape our understanding of America’s past.
Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme. 860-434-5542; florencegriswoldmuseum.org
Sol LeWitt Print Exhibition
The New Britain Museum of American Art presents Strict Beauty: Sol LeWitt Prints, opening September 18 (new date). Connecticut-born conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928 – 2007) is best known for his programmatic wall drawings and modular structures, but alongside these works he created a body of more than 350 print projects comprising thousands of lithographs, silkscreens, etchings, aquatints, woodcuts, and linocuts.
Strict Beauty is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s printmaking to date, including 83 objects and single prints and print series, for a total of more than 250 prints. The exhibition begins with the artist’s earliest prints: figure studies and scenes of urban life made at Syracuse University and in Hartford, Connecticut. LeWitt’s mature printmaking is explored in four thematic sections that reflect the diverse abstract languages he pursued throughout his career.
New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Street, New Britain. Nbmaa.org; 860-229-0257
Picturing History: Historic Barns of Connecticut, a traveling photography exhibition, will be on view in the western half of the state this fall! The exhibition features images of the interiors and exteriors of barns taken by professional, amateur, and student photographers of all ages and submitted to Preservation Connecticut part of its Historic Barns of Connecticut project. (Visit connecticutbarns.org.)
Picturing History will be on view at Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford in October. Hunt Hill Farm, also known as The Silo, is the former home of New York Pops founder and conductor Skitch Henderson and is a featured site in Preservation Connecticut’s Creative Places inventory. (Visit connecticutcreativeplaces.org/.) In December Picturing History will conclude with an exhibition at the Pequot Library in Southport.
Get your cameras ready for Preservation Connecticut’s next contest! It will feature historic landscapes in celebration of Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday in April 2022. Visit preservationct.org and the organization’s social media for news and announcements.
Youth Fantasy Literature Explored
Drawing on materials from the Children’s Historical Collection and the modern circulating collection, Magic, Mayhem, and Maturity: The Growth of Youth Fantasy Literature, opening October 7 at Pequot Library, examines the emergence and evolution of youth fantasy literature. Spanning fairy tales from the 19th-century such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to more modern stories such as Harry Potter, Children of Blood and Bone, and The Gilded Ones, this exhibition explores how these stories have evolved to tackle this transition in a more frank manner and, significantly, to embrace all voices. Magic, Mayhem, and Maturity will be open to the public during library browsing hours.
Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Avenue, Southport. Pequotlibrary.org; 203-259-0346
The New Mattatuck
Opening October 10 at the Mattatuck Museum is Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, an exhibition of more than 70 working photos, paintings, and tear sheets by America’s best-known illustrator. Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camerawas organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
On view in conjunction with Behind the Camera will be History of Photography in Waterbury. From photographic societies to professional photography studios to newspaper photography, Waterbury residents have been greatly affected by the development of photography, which allowed them to document their city, their families, their work, and their homes.
The Mattatuck is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday nights until 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Walk-in visitors are welcome!
Mattatuck Museum, 144 West Main Street, Waterbury, mattmuseum.org; 203-753-0381
State Library Wins Awards
The Connecticut State Library’s Digging into History: WWI Trench Restoration in Seicheprey, France, headed by project coordinator Christine Pittsley, is the recipient of a 2021 American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Leadership in History Award, one of 38 awards given this year, and a Connecticut League of History Organizations 2021 Award of Merit.
This groundbreaking project brought 15 Connecticut high-school students to Seicheprey, France in July 2019 to restore a section of trenches once occupied by Connecticut doughboys. To learn more about the project, visit ctinworldwar1.org/trenchproject/.
The AASLH Leadership in History Awards program, initiated in 1945, honors significant achievement in the field of state and local history and brings public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena. The Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) presents Awards of Merit to institutions and individuals that demonstrate the highest of professional standards and that enhance and further the understanding of Connecticut history.
Connecticut’s 20th-Century Artists On View
Ozias Dodge, (1868 – 1925), artist, inventor, and adventurer, was born in Vermont just after the Civil War. He showed a natural talent for art and studied at Yale, The Arts Students League in New York, and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. While living in Paris he came into contact with the works of Realist artists and the Barbizon School.
Much of Dodge’s later work, including that held in the Slater Memorial Museum’s collection, reflects both his boyhood in a rural and rustic environment and the influence of the Barbizon School. He often featured farm workers, rivers, woods, and fields unmarred by urban development. This markedly rural vision existed around Norwich, despite the fact that the city had become highly industrialized by the time he arrived in 1897 to become director of the Norwich Art School, an affiliate of Norwich Free Academy. See his work in the Slater Museum’s permanent exhibition Connecticut Artists of the 20th Century.
Slater Memorial Museum, 108 Crescent Street, Norwich. 860-887-2506; slatermuseum.org
Dig Deep into Connecticut History
Membership in the Association for the Study of Connecticut History (ASCH) includes a subscription to the semi-annual Connecticut History Review, the only academic, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the history of Connecticut. Find out about the ASCH fall conference and become a member at asch-cthistory.org.