Spotlight — Summer 2021

News and Events To See This Summer
From Connecticut Explored's Partners

Summer 2021

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Grand Reopening!

After nearly two years and $9 million, Mattatuck Museum is proud to announce its Grand Reopening. The museum opens with exciting changing exhibitions, an artist installation in the plaza, reinstallation of the permanent collection, and a re-interpretation of the history exhibit.

The museum reinstalled the history exhibit to tell stories of important transitional moments in Waterbury’s past. Much in the way that big changes in a person’s life cause them to reflect and choose a path forward, Waterbury’s history reveals how times of change created a city that adapted in order to persevere. The reinstalled gallery promotes connections between the visitor’s own life and Waterbury’s history and encourages reflection on how moments of transition in a city’s story are not so different from those in a person’s life.

The museum is open for timed admission, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday nights the museum remains open until 7 p.m.

Mattatuck Museum, 144 West Main Street, Waterbury. mattmuseum.org; 203-753-0381

Charming Yantic in Norwich

The village of Yantic in Norwich is lovely to visit in spring and summer. As you tour the Slater Museum’s Norwich Galleries, you will see paintings of Yantic Falls, Yantic Mill, and portraits of members of the industrialist Williams, Converse, Adams, and Backus families. [See “Norwich’s Millionaires’ Triangle,” page 36.]

This small but skillful view by John Denison Crocker (1822 – 1907) shows Yantic along the Yantic River, its unpaved road supported by a stone embankment and an iron railroad bridge in the distance. The village owes much of its 19th-century development to the Williams family, who established the Yantic Woolen Mills and built a spectacular mansion named Rockclyffe (no longer extant). After a fire destroyed the mill, Erastus Winslow Williams and Elizabeth Tracy Williams rebuilt it (it’s still standing) out of fine Monson, Massachusetts granite. One of their sons, William Tracy Williams, built a carriage bridge leading over the river to the mansion of the same stone. 

Slater Memorial Museum, 108 Crescent Street, Norwich. 860-887-2506; slatermuseum.org

Connecticut Freedom Workers

During the 1960s, people of various races, religions, ages, genders, and classes contributed to an integrated civil rights movement—in Connecticut and around the nation. Connecticut Freedom Workers: Remembering the Civil Rights Movement, on view at Connecticut Historical Society through August 28, shares stories, artifacts, and images of Connecticut freedom workers who supported the movement at home or by traveling south to participate in sit-ins, protests, and marches, including the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selmato Montgomery march.

The stories of activists such as William J. Brown (the first executive director of the Urban League of Greater Hartford), Mardon Walker (a Connecticut College student studying as an exchange student at Spelman College in Georgia), and others help shape our understanding of the impact and involvement of Connecticans in this historic movement. See the exhibition in person at Connecticut Historical Society or via a 3D-HD virtual tour at chs.org/online-exhibition/virtualtour-ctfreedomworkers.

Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford. chs.org; 860-236-5621

Downtown Residential Enclave

Explore New Haven Preservation Trust’s newest self-guided tour. Lynwood Place is a quiet residential street in the Dwight Street Historic District. It features houses dating to the late 19th century and is within walking distance of downtown New Haven and Yale’s main campus. See nhpt.org/self-guided-tours for this and other tours.

 

Oldest Historic Marker in Lebanon

As with most towns, Lebanon’s historic places helped to shape the community and its neighborhoods. Many of these historic places are on privately owned land, but a few are publicly accessible, including one that is possibly the oldest colonial artifact in town. In 1692 Mohegan sachem Owaneco sold 25 square miles to four men from Norwich. This purchase, often called the “five-mile square,” was marked at each of its corners. The southwest corner’s marker, a stone ledge inscribed “LVMC” (for Lebanon Five—V(for five)—Mile Corner), is the only marker still surviving. The “Five Mile Rock” is at the end of a three-quarter-mile town trail off Randall Road. Having been exposed to the weather for more than 300 years, the lettering is worn. In this photo from the 1980s, the engraved lines were highlighted with chalk to amplify the letters. Contact the Lebanon Historical Society for further information or find a trail map at lebanonct.gov/rails-trails-committee/pages/photo-gallery.

Lebanon Historical Society Museum, 856 Trumbull Highway, Lebanon. 860-642-6579; historyofLebanon.org

An Artist and His Students

Frank Vincent DuMond, Courtesy of Douglas & Marcia DuMond

The Prismatic Palette: Frank Vincent DuMond and his Students, on view June 19  to October 3 at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, reexamines the art and legacy of Frank Vincent DuMond (1865 – 1951). A key figure in American art and art education, DuMond is known for his lush green landscapes and for the important role he played in the Lyme Art Colony in the early 20th century. He also taught at the Art Students League in New York City for nearly 60 years, instructing multiple generations of artists. The Prismatic Palette explores DuMond’s career and legacy with almost 60 objects drawn from private and public collections. The first exhibition in 20 years to focus on DuMond, the exhibition emphasizes his teaching, the work of his students, and the enduring use of his prismatic palette method of mixing color, which has not previously been widely explored.

Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street, New London. 860-443-2545; lymanallyn.org

Revolutionary War Diary Digitized

“…I must shut my book for ye present… ye enemy are upon us.” With the support of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut, the New Haven Museum has digitized and transcribed the first-person account of Josiah Atkins, a soldier in General George Washington’s army. The Journal of Josiah Atkins of Waterbury, Farmingbury Society in Ye State of Connecticut, N. England, Written by Himself in 1781 is a remarkable artifact that describes the final year of Atkins’s life. Just 32 when he died, he left his pregnant wife and child behind to enlist in the Continental Army and fight for American independence. The journal is part day-by-day account of army life, part collection of musings, poetry, religious reflections, and letters home, and a document of the physical, psychological, and spiritual circumstances of one man during a pivotal historic period. Visit newhavenmuseum.org/museum-collections/online-exhibitions/the-journal-of-josiah-atkins/

New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Avenue, New Haven. newhavenmuseum.org; 203-562-4183

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, shoulders the burdens of their parents. Bilyak details their lives in heartrending and hilarious vignettes. Published by  Wesleyan University Press in March 2021. Visit hfsbooks.com/books/nothing-special-bilyak/.

Ma’s An Inward Sea on View

As part of the New Britain Museum of American Art’s NEW/NOW exhibition series featuring emerging and established contemporary artists, the museum presents Jennifer Wen Ma: An Inward Sea, on view through September 26. In recent years Ma (b. 1973, Beijing) has explored themes of utopia, dystopia, and the human condition in immersive and participatory installations. The exhibition continues this exploration while reflecting deeply on the events of the last year.

An Inward Sea comprises an installation invoking a moon hovering above a vast sea. In this case, the “sea” is made from black cut-paper waves tipped in gold. Throughout the exhibition, the moon becomes a stage that features the profiled portraits of New Britain residents, accompanied by audio recordings of their individual stories of isolation and otherness, community and togetherness, and other experiences, beginning with the pandemic and expanding to broader concerns about the human condition.

New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Street, New Britain. Nbmaa.org;  860-229-0257

Enjoy Outdoors at Hill-Stead

Hill-Stead is a beacon of creativity with live outdoor art performances, educational offerings, and public and private events. The beloved house on the hill provides a rare opportunity to be surrounded by world-renowned art with paintings by Manet, Monet, Degas, Whistler, and Cassatt while enjoying the expansive estate—an outdoor masterpiece itself. 

Hill-Stead Museum, 35 Mountain Road, Farmington. Hillstead.org; 860-677-4787

Olmsted Heritage in Connecticut

In recognition of the 200th anniversary in 2022 of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s birth, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Preservation Connecticut (PCT) are partnering to document the Olmsted heritage in Connecticut.

One of Connecticut’s most famous citizens, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. was the father of American landscape architecture and the founder of a firm that was a national leader in the profession for more than a century. Connecticut played an influential role in this history, as the place of Olmsted’s birth, early inspiration, education, societal network, and burial; the state accounts for nearly 300 of the Olmsted firm’s commissions. Yet despite Connecticut’s importance to the Olmsted legacy and the huge amount of information available about Olmsted and his firm, there is little written specifically about the state’s place in Olmsted heritage. [For an introduction, see “Frederick Law Olmsted in Connecticut,” Spring 2018.]

The project, funded through the Connecticut Community Investment Act, has two principal tasks. The first will be to research and write a statewide historical context for the Olmsted firm that directly addresses Connecticut’s contributions to Olmsted Sr., the Olmsted firm, and the development of landscape architecture. The second task will be in-person fieldwork and digital analysis to establish a more complete record of which historic Olmsted landscapes remain in Connecticut and to what extent they remain intact.

SHPO and PCT hope this project will increase awareness of landscapes as valuable historic resources. Building on publicity generated by the bicentennial, the project can use Olmsted’s works and writings to call attention to the importance of landscapes for health, quality of life, and the workings of democracy—all essential Olmsted themes—and to make the case for preserving and enhancing not only landscapes associated with the Olmsted firm but also historic landscapes in general. For updates visit https://portal.ct.gov/DECD/Services/Historic-Preservation and www.preservationct.org.

The Art of the Garden

The Greenwich Historical Society’s exhibition Beautiful Work: The Art of Greenwich Gardens and Landscapes continues through September 5, exploring the legacy and artistry of those who designed, worked in, and drew inspiration from Greenwich gardens. Pulling from the historical society’s rich collections of rarely seen garden landscape design drawings, dried botanical specimens, garden and horticultural books, and original works of art by garden-loving artists of the Cos Cob Art Colony of American Impressionism, the exhibition offers a glimpse at the splendid landscapes designed for Greenwich’s great estates along with more modest backyard gardens planted for food and personal enjoyment.

Visitors also have the opportunity to tour the Greenwich Historical Society’s reimagined historic campus, including its heritage vegetable gardens, historic grape arbor, and Impressionist-era floral gardens. Summer Concerts on the Lawn and Tavern Garden Markets are also ongoing.

Greenwich Historical Society, 47 Strickland Road, Cos Cob. Greenwichhistory.org; 203-869-6899

Open for Tours

This summer, take a trip to The Mark Twain House & Museum, now open to the public for guided tours! After having been closed for most of 2020, the museum is thrilled to welcome you all back to what Mark Twain called “the loveliest home that ever was.” The museum continues to monitor the ever-changing situation and is constantly updating its visitor guidelines as necessary. To ensure that your visit is a great experience, the museum highly recommends purchasing tickets ahead of time online. Please visit the museum’s website for the latest updates on tickets and its guide to visiting.

The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford. 860-247-0998; marktwainhouse.org

Explore Nowashe Village

Steatite bowl. Wood Memorial Library & Museum

This summer, visit Nowashe Village, an outdoor museum of Indigenous life by the Friends of Wood Memorial Library & Museum. Admission includes a multimedia self-guided tour, exhibition of Native American artifacts, and access to educators to answer questions. “Explore More” programs feature Indigenous presenters and crafters. Open Saturdays, 1 - 3 pm, through November 13. Nowashe Village is located at 787 Main Street, South Windsor. Visit Nowashe.org.  

A New Season at CT Landmarks

2021 brings a new season of programs and events to Connecticut Landmarks that you won’t want to miss. CTL’s sites are open for tours by advance registration; book your tour at one (or more!) of its historic properties by calling or emailing the site. You’re invited to take part in garden tours at the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden in Bethlehem, the Sunset Sounds Concert Series and walking tours at CTL’s Hartford properties, the new Littlest Historian program at the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden in Suffield, colonial activity experiences at the Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry, history in aCTion panel discussions and new exhibit components at the Hempsted Houses in New London, and so much more! CTL’s museums are starting points, “landmarks in every sense,” for deeper exploration and greater appreciation of the Connecticut experience. The real-life stories, as told through CTL’s collections, make history matter. Visit ctlandmarks.org for more information, updates, and virtual content. If you haven’t already, please “like” CTL on Facebook at facebook.com/ConnecticutLandmarks and on each property’s page.

Connecticut Landmarks, ctlandmarks.org

Summer at Noah’s House

So much is waiting for you this summer at the Noah Webster House! Tour the historic property and garden, enjoy dinner at monthly food truck events, or rent the patio for your own party. Visit Noah’s beautiful National Historic Landmark home Tuesday through Saturday, 1-4 p.m.

Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, 227 South Main Street, West Hartford. 860-521-5362; noahwebsterhouse.org

Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center

Experience what Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center has to offer this summer, including outdoor programs and entertainment for the whole family! The beautiful four-acre campus features stunning gardens, historic buildings, and new guided and self-guided walking tours. Stop by on Monday evenings in June and July for Music at the Museum, when KTM&HC collaborates with Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra to host world-class musicians for live, open-air performances that are free and open to the public. In July and August, kids can participate in Summer Enrichment @ Keeler, where they’ll learn about local history through fun, hands-on activities. Throughout August, a series of outdoor theater experiences will be performed on site as Thrown Stone Theatre presents “The Suburbs,” a roving production focused on themes of suburban living. For more information visit keelertavernmuseum.org and follow 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

History Courses at CCSU

Michael Forino (MA Public History, CCSU ’13; ABD, Hagley Program, History of Capitalism, Technology, and Culture, University of Delaware) returns to CCSU to teach a course in material culture this Fall. Forino works for Preservation Connecticut. Contact Kathy Hermes, History Department chair, at hermesk@ccsu.edu for information about taking CCSU History courses.

An Art Explosion to Experience

Leonardo Drew, City in the Grass, 2019

Raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and now residing in Brooklyn, New York, artist Leonardo Drew responds to a longstanding fascination with the life cycle of material decomposition and transformation in his work. In this two-part project on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art through December, Drew has planned a site-specific installation—an expansive sculptural work the artist refers to as an “explosion”—for the museum’s Main Street lobby and an outdoor, interactive sculptural landscape spanning the museum’s open-air central courtyard. Originally realized in 2019 as a commission for Madison Square Park Conservancy in New York, City in the Grass will be modified for the Wadsworth’s courtyard. Drew’s participatory art sculpture is created for public interaction, a place for rest and reflection as much as performance and play. Drew invites and encourages visitors to engage with it directly in order to fulfill its purpose. Visit thewadsworth.org for programs that creatively and physically activate the sculpture throughout the summer and fall.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street, Hartford. Thewadsworth.org; 860-278-2670

A Perfect Day in Wilton

Enjoy a perfect summer day at the Wilton Historical Society. Visit an exhibition about legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck, an outdoor farmers’ market, and a fragrant herb garden!

Wilton’s own Dave Brubeck (1920 – 2012) is widely acknowledged to be one of America’s most significant post-swing-era jazz musicians. Remembering Dave: A Brubeck Family Album celebrates the 100th anniversary of the jazz legend and highlights his impact as a composer,  performer, family man, and civil rights activist.

The weekly outdoor farmers’ market, held on the society’s grounds Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m., June 2 to October 27, features fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, baked goods, honey, and other homemade goodies from local growers and makers. Local artisans also sell their wares; enjoy a meal from gourmet food trucks on site.

The society’s colonial herb garden at the c. 1740 Betts House is another summer treat. The society is conveniently located on Route 7 and offers ample parking.

Wilton Historical Society, 224 Danbury Road/Route 7, Wilton. 203-762-7257; wiltonhistorical.org

Welcome New State Librarian

Deborah Schander has been appointed the 11th State Librarian at the Connecticut State Library. Schander recently served as the executive director of the Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Law Library Center for Information & Technology and associate professor of law at the Seton Hall Law School. Prior to joining Seton Hall Law, Schander was the associate director of the law library and lecturer in law at Vanderbilt University’s Alyne Queener Massey Law Library in Nashville, Tennessee and a librarian and member of the faculty at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, Georgia.

Schander is an active member of regional and national law library associations, past chair of the Professional Engagement, Growth, and Advancement special interest section of the American Association of Law Libraries, and past president of the Atlanta Law Libraries Association. She has written and spoken on a variety of topics within her areas of expertise, including legal research instruction, legal information literacy, professional development, and library outreach. Schander holds a J.D. and an M.L.I.S. from Florida State University (2007) and a B.A. in English from Washington Adventist University in Maryland.

Connecticut State Library, 231 Capitol Avenue, Hartford. Ctstatelibrary.org; 860-757-6500

Reflection and Renewal in Old Lyme

John M. Tracy, Botany. Florence Griswold Museum

From June 5 to September 19 the Florence Griswold Museum presents Social & Solitary: Reflections on Art, Isolation, and Renewal, an exhibition of historic and contemporary works from the museum’s collection that reflects on what our world has faced over the past year. The museum hopes visitors will use the exhibition, its gardens and grounds on the Lieutenant River, and a new outdoor installation by contemporary artist jackie sumell as a place to heal from all we’ve endured—to share, when possible, with friends and family, or simply to enjoy art and nature on their own.

Virtual visitors can check out the museum’s new online offering, Hauling and Harrowing: Edward Volkert and the Connecticut Farm. The exhibition, made possible by a grant from Connecticut Humanities, features depictions of agriculture from the 1910s to the 1930s, an era of technological transition from animal-powered to industrial farming.

Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme. 860-434-5542; florencegriswoldmuseum.org

Subscribe to Connecticut History Review

Membership in the Association for the Study of Connecticut History (ASCH) includes a subscription to the Connecticut History Review, published twice annually. The Review is the only academic, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the history of Connecticut. For more information visit asch-cthistory.org.

Experience a Whaling Voyage

The longest (in number of feet) painting in North America travels to Mystic Seaport Museum this year, giving armchair travelers a trip around the world on an 1848 whaling voyage. A Spectacle in Motion: The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World is on view through March 2022. The Azores, Brazil, Pitcairn Island, and Hawaii all appear on this 1,275-foot-long work of art, originally displayed for American audiences as a moving panorama. Artists Benjamin Russell and James Purrington captured vessels of all kinds, from outrigger canoes to British naval vessels, along with dramatic scenes of volcanoes and icebergs, shipwrecks and mutinies. Visitors will see a changing 30-foot span of the painting displayed in the museum’s largest gallery while experiencing a re-created digital performance of the entire work and exploring in greater depth the most dramatic and picturesque scenes.

Mystic Seaport Museum, 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic. Mysticseaport.org; 860-572-0711

New Branch Library to Open

Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Library @ the Lyric branch will be opening its doors this summer! For its grand opening, the Hartford History Center (HHC) at Hartford Public Library (HPL) will host exhibitions that speak to the history and contemporary vibrancy of the neighborhood and greater community. The HHC will remount its exhibition Puerto Ricans Making Hartford Home, which was on view in January 2020 at Hartford Stage during its production of Pike Street by Nilaja Sun. The exhibition speaks to how early Puerto Rican communities took on discrimination and challenges around housing, education, employment, and political power to find ways to make significant cultural and social impacts in the city that provided the support they needed to survive and make Hartford home. A new HHC exhibition, Revolutionary Latinas in Hartford, will feature works created in a community art project that illuminate everyday community heroines. The new 13,000-square-foot neighborhood library will be the largest neighborhood branch in the city.

Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Library @ the Lyric, parklibrary.hplct.org.

30th Annual Juneteenth Celebration

Join the Amistad Center for Art & Culture for its 30th annual Juneteenth celebration, one of the longest running in Connecticut. Juneteenth marks an important moment in American history, June 19, 1865, when the enslaved in Galveston, Texas first learned of their freedom, two and a half years after the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The center’s Juneteenth Celebration will include a family-friendly Community Day on June 12 and an evening program on June 19. Visit the center’s website or Facebook page for details.

The Simpson Collection, named after collector Randolph Linsly Simpson, was purchased in 1987 by the Amistad Center to form its permanent collection. The center has added to this dynamic collection over the years to include contemporary works of art. Through the Looking Glass, a special exhibition on view through 2021, explores the progression of the collection and underscores its relevance to the here and now.

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street, Hartford. AmistadCenter.org; 860-838-4089

Pequot Library Summer Book Sale

After the successful and safe ​Small Fall​ and ​Spring Fling​ book sales, Pequot Library is thrilled to once again host its annual Summer Book Sale. Join other book lovers on the library’s Great Lawn from July 20 to 27 for ​one of the largest book sales in New England. You’ll find more than 100,000 books for sale, plus CDs, DVDs, records, and unique “specials.” All items are gently used and donated to Pequot Library.​ This incredible annual event is one of the library’s most critical fundraisers and community events, attracting more than 10,000 visitors and raising more than $100,000 for the library’s operations each year. COVID-19 precautions and protocols will be in place. Details about the book sale can be found at ​pequotlibrary.org​.

Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Avenue, Southport. pequotlibrary.org; 203-259-0346

Stowe Prize Winner Celebration!

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is delighted to honor Dr. Eddie Glaude as the 2021 Stowe Prize winner. Glaude receives the award for Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own (Crown Publishing Group, 2020), a book that uses the life of James Baldwin to create dialogue about racial inequality.

“James Baldwin’s witness/work remains relevant for our challenging times,” said Glaude, a Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor. In the book, “I tried to walk with him, to see with him, to shout with him in desperate hope that we might choose to be otherwise as a country.” Events related to the Stowe Prize will take place all year, culminating with on-site and virtual presentations in September. For more information visit stowecenter.org.

Good news continues; tours of the Stowe House resumed this spring. Online ticketing is now available.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest Street, Hartford. HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org; 860-522-9258