New Haven in COVID
New Haven is known as a bustling, diverse hub of students, workers, academics, businesspeople, tourists and transients, homeless and wealthy people. Exciting, and sometimes troubled, the city has never been considered quiet. COVID-19 changed all that.
In March 2020 New Haven resident Roderick Topping set out to casually document the community’s new reality by wandering silent streets, snapping photos, and focusing his camera on the structures, outlines, topography, and people that blended into the surreal background of daily lives at the height of the pandemic. Topping’s captured moments are at once distant and relatable and depict a paradigm shift in the history of the Elm City. The resulting collection is on view in Strange Times: Downtown New Haven in the COVID Era at the New Haven Museum through March 25, 2022.
New Haven Museum, newhavenmuseum.org
The Art of John Henry Twachtman
Unprecedented flooding at the Greenwich Historical Society caused by Hurricane Ida late last summer resulted in postponement of Life and Art: The Greenwich Paintings of John Henry Twachtman, an ambitious exhibition showcasing works of art by the American Impressionist artist John Henry Twachtman. Visit Greenwichhistory.org for the new exhibition dates.
In the meantime, visit the John Henry Twachtman Catalogue Raisonné on the historical society’s website. The catalogue raisonné is the result of more than 25 years of research and development by Lisa N. Peters, Ph.D., and is the definitive online publication documenting more than 750 works by the noted American Impressionist. The free digital resource offers a detailed record of the artist’s oeuvre, life, and exhibitions and other material including correspondence and essay entries for every known work completed by the artist. The catalogue raisonné is generously supported by the Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the Cross Family Charitable Fund, and the Lunder Foundation.
Greenwich Historical Society, Greenwichhistory.org
Modernist Residential ArchitectureExplore New Haven’s Modernist residential architecture, in addition to icons like the Pirelli Building and Beinecke Library, on newhavenmodern.org. Among the city’s significant Modernist residences is the Frank and Margaret Pannenborg House (above). Designed by Margaret Pannenborg and constructed in 1971, it represents the only structure of its kind in the neighborhood.
Christina Forrer / MATRIX 187
On view at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art through January 2, 2022 is the latest MATRIX exhibition, featuring tapestries by Christina Forrer. Contemporary conflict lies at the core of Forrer’s narrative textiles. The fantastical compositions explore themes of family discord and environmental strife, using a visual language rooted in classical mythology and the regional folk traditions of the artist’s native Switzerland. Forrer’s raw and energetic weaving style, vivid color palette, and intentionally misaligned panels combine effects of the handmade with the magical. The artist has also curated a selection of objects from the Wadsworth’s collections, largely costumes and textiles displayed in dialogue with her weavings, that draw out the cultural themes and creative processes found in her own work.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, thewadsworth.org
Connecticut History Day (CHD) seeks judges for the 2022 contest season! Join other volunteers from the community who share a love of history and education to review student projects based on this year’s theme, “Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, and Consequences.”
Connecticut History Day is an affiliate of National History Day, a program for middle- and high-school students focused on historical research, interpretation, and creative expression through project-based learning. As a judge you will meet outstanding Connecticut students, share your talents and knowledge with your community, network with other history enthusiasts, encourage and help Connecticut’s youth, and have fun! No experience necessary. CHD staff will provide training and assistance. Sign up today! Contact Rebecca Taber at Rebecca.Taber@CTDemocracyCenter.org or visit HistoryDayCT.org/Judges for more information.
Connecticut Democracy Center at Connecticut’s Old State House, CTOldStateHouse.org
History and Mental Health
Understanding how people have struggled with mental health throughout history helps us support ourselves and each other today. Common Struggle, Individual Experience: An Exhibition About Mental Health presented by Hartford Healthcare Institute of Living, on view at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum through October 15, 2022, explores how society has sought and continues to seek care for the mind and mental health. Letters, photographs, and other artifacts will illuminate the experiences of Connecticans from the past. Oral history interviews, recorded in 2020 and 2021, will share the perspectives of people today. For more information visit chs.org/exhibition/commonstruggleindividualexperience.
Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library, chs.org
In 1936 18-year-old Olive Lord went to Rockville to purchase lace from the mill where it was sold by the pound. With the light green lace she bought, she made a dress for Lebanon’s Lyman Memorial High School prom. Her dress was sewn by machine with hand finishing and lined with pink silk. After graduating, Lord attended Hillyer College (now part of the University of Hartford), then worked for many years as a professional secretary. She noted on her resume that her hobbies included raising house plants, handicrafts, and reading. After retiring Lord learned Braille transcription and transcribed books for vision-impaired readers.
Lord’s prom dress and photograph are among the artifacts included in Made in Lebanon at the Lebanon Historical Society Museum, open year-round. Each object in the permanent exhibition has a story to tell about the ingenuity and skill of local residents.
Lebanon Historical Society Museum, HistoryofLebanon.org
Submit Your Photo!
Get your cameras ready for the next Preservation Connecticut photo contest! In celebration of Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday in 2022, Preservation CT is seeking submissions of your photographs of Connecticut’s historic landscapes. What is a historic landscape? A landscape that has been shaped by human involvement. Examples include residential gardens and community parks, scenic highways, rural communities, institutional grounds, cemeteries, battlefields, and zoological gardens. Historic landscapes may contain water features such as ponds or fountains, circulation systems including roads, steps, and paths, buildings, or furnishings including benches, fences, lighting, and sculptures. While Preservation CT is flexible in the definition of historic landscape for this contest, it does insist that photos show how the landscape has historically been used and shaped by people. Photo submissions will be accepted beginning in January 2022; anything taken in the past 2 years is eligible. Find out more at preservationct.org/picturing-history-landscapes.
Miniaturists of the Early Republic
Telling a story of struggle, innovation, and accomplishment, The Way Sisters is a special exhibition on view through January 23, 2022 at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. The Way Sisters focuses on two remarkable, understudied women artists and explores the role of portraiture in the days long before selfies, the art of portrait miniatures, and the artists’ sitters. Mary Way (1769 – 1833) and Elizabeth Way Champlain (1771 – 1825) were pioneering sisters from New London, Connecticut who expanded gender roles for women and pushed the boundaries of portrait miniatures as an art form. They were among the earliest independent women artists working in the United States, producing watercolor miniatures and unique “dressed” paper portraits with fabric clothing between 1790 and 1825. This is the first museum exhibition to focus on the work of the Way sisters, with new scholarship and many objects that have never before been exhibited to the public.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, lymanallyn.org
Trains, Trains, and More Trains!
The much-anticipated Great Trains Holiday Show at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 26, at noon, and is on view through January 17, 2022. The society’s historic 18th- and 19th-century buildings are decorated for the holidays and transformed into a train-lover’s delight, with multiple train layouts winding through tiny towns featuring many different kinds of buildings, tunnels, and gauges. The interactive display enchants visitors of all ages with lots of buttons to push and knowledgeable “train engineers” on hand to “talk trains.” Something special happens every Saturday. Please visit the museum’s website for more holiday programs and events! The holiday show is on view Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Member admission is free; non-member kids are $5, and adults are $10. Plus, enjoy wonderful holiday shopping at the Betts Store Museum Shop, open during museum hours.
Wilton Historical Society, wiltonhistorical.org
Holiday Magic & More
Through January 24, 2022, the Florence Griswold Museum presents Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives from the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Rediscovering the images of this powerhouse of 19th-century publishing offers a fresh opportunity to uncover the complexities and contradictions of our country’s history.
In addition, from November 27 through January 3, visitors can enjoy Holiday Magic, featuring decorations, special events, and the much-loved Miss Florence’s Teas! Coming next February, a special exhibition showcases the domestic textiles produced in New London County from the mid-18th century to the early 19th-century that stand out today as masterpieces of American needle craft. Curated by independent scholar Lynne Z. Bassett, New London County Quilts & Bedcovers, 1750‒1825, on view February 12 to May 1, 2022, examines the artistic excellence of these pieces within the context of design inspiration drawn from an array of transatlantic sources and explores the question of how the county fostered such exceptional work.
Florence Griswold Museum, florencegriswoldmuseum.org
Where Aaron Burr Studied Law
Visit Litchfield from the comfort of your home with the new Tapping Reeve House Virtual Tour. This immersive online experience takes visitors on a journey into the life of a student arriving in Litchfield to study at one of the town’s two important schools, The Litchfield Law School and the Litchfield Female Academy. Explore the legacy of America’s first law school and its students, including Roger Sherman Baldwin and the infamous Aaron Burr. Start your tour today by visiting litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org/museums/virtualtour/. This project is made possible by funding from Connecticut Humanities.
Litchfield Historical Society, litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org
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, on view through February 5, 2022 at Pequot Library in Southport, 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 the Harry Potter series, 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, Pequotlibrary.org
Historic Holiday Cards
Happy Holidays from Slater Memorial Museum! Within the museum’s collection of more than 10,000 objects and artwork is a unique collection of handmade Christmas cards sketched and colored by some of Norwich’s most notable artists and teachers at the Norwich Art School. Ozias Dodge, director of the Norwich Art School from 1897 to 1900, for example, created many of the personalized Christmas cards in the collection showcasing the seasonal beauty of the neighborhood of Norwichtown, including the Norwichtown Green and historic homes found there. Other teachers from Norwich Free Academy, including Ray Case, Blanche Browning, and others, continued the tradition of sending their own handmade Christmas cards to friends and family; the artists were highly creative and featured new designs every year. You can learn more about Slater Museum using the digital lessons and learning resources at slatermuseum.org/learn.
Slater Memorial Museum, slatermuseum.org
Explore Norman Rockwell’s Process
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, on view through January 16, 2022, offers visitors to the Mattatuck Museum a look at the working methods of America’s best-known illustrator. This special exhibition features more than 70 working photos, paintings, and tear sheets, providing insight into how Rockwell created his unique composites, the finished work, and the “Rockwell moments” that have become symbols of American culture. The museum has developed a host of programs and activities inspired by this exhibition for students, families, and adults. Visit mattmuseum.org/calendar for details. Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in collaboration with guest curator Ron Schick.
Mattatuck Museum, mattmuseum.org
Panels featuring stories of maritime history from a diverse perspective were installed throughout the grounds of Mystic Seaport Museum last summer. The Sea Connects Us exhibition, part of the museum’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion effort, explains how African American and Indigenous people were harmed by colonization and slavery, but also how they persevered and contributed significantly to maritime history. “When people think of maritime history, they don’t think of people who are African American and Native American,” curator Akeia de Barros Gomes, Ph.D. said. The panels were designed with bold colors and powerful images. “The panels,” Gomes notes, “are bright and beautiful, and we want people to be drawn in by them.”
Mystic Seaport Museum, Mysticseaport.org
Artist’s Empowering Work
Join Hartford Public Library on Friday, January 7, 2022, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., on the library’s ArtWalk for the opening of The Adornment Series: Images of Empowerment by Hartford’s own Michelle Thomas. Thomas creates large-scale works that use ceramic mask-making techniques and found objects to create sculptural portrayals of people of African descent in the United States. She seeks to connect these communities to deeper, more diverse, ancestral roots before slavery and to combat imagery that denigrates the history of Black people in America. “Armed with an empowering narrative, the purpose of this body of work is to offer solutions to reverse psychological imprisonment with positive imagery,” she notes. The Adornment Series is on view through February 19, 2022.
ArtWalk, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street, Hartford. Hhc.hplct.org
Lines, Bands, Loopy Doopy
The New Britain Museum of American Art presents Strict Beauty: Sol LeWitt Prints, on view through Sunday, January 9, 2022. The conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928 – 2007) is best known for his programmatic wall drawings and modular structures, but alongside these works he generated more than 350 print projects.
Strict Beauty is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s printmaking to date, including more than 250 prints, consisting of single prints and print series, and 83 objects. The exhibition begins with the artist’s earliest prints: figure studies and scenes of urban life made at Syracuse University and in Hartford. LeWitt’s mature printmaking is explored in four thematic sections that reflect the abstract languages he pursued throughout his career: “Lines, Arcs, Circles, and Grids,” “Bands and Colors,” “From Geometric Figures to Complex Forms,” and “Wavy, Curvy, Loopy Doopy, and in All Directions.”
New Britain Museum of American Art, Nbmaa.org
Take a Garden Walk
In 1907 renowned architect Cass Gilbert and his family purchased the Resseguie Hotel—the building now known as Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center—as a summer vacation home. In letters, Gilbert fondly referred to their new home as “the Cannon Ball House” (to learn why, visit the museum’s website!) and sang the praises of its historical details. Over the next decades he and his wife Julia restored, preserved, designed, and expanded the home to shape the site to look much as it does today. Today, KTM&HC’s self-guided walking tour “Gilberts in the Garden” tells the story of the Gilberts’ long-standing love affair with the Cannon Ball House. Interpretive signage placed throughout the four-acre site allows visitors to learn about the Gilberts’ contributions to the landscape and compare historic photographs with present-day views. “Gilberts in the Garden” does not require admission and is available seven days a week, dawn to dusk. Visit keelertavernmuseum.org/visit to learn more.
Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center, Keelertavernmuseum.org
Frederic Palmer’s Diaries
From 1942 to 1971 Frederic Palmer wrote in his diary every day. These diaries contain a wealth of information about his daily life, including the weather, high and low temperatures, where he went and who he saw, and letters he had written or correspondence he received. These diaries are held in Connecticut Landmarks’s archives, along with Palmer’s architectural papers and drawings, personal photographs, and a trove of letters. Through these documents, historians are able to reconstruct the lives of Palmer and his partner Howard Metzger and their family relationships, circle of friends, and acquaintances. As Palmer and Metzger’s relationship grew, their letters powerfully revealed the depth of their attachment and its evolution over time. Examining these archives strengthens our existing knowledge of their relationship and helps staff understand how they chose to build a life together as a gay couple in a rural town in Connecticut during an evolving gay rights movement.
For more information, or to book a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Palmer-Warner House before it is open to the public, visit ctlandmarks.org.
The digital collections at the Connecticut State Library feature several personal stories found in early accounts books, diaries, and journals that are available online to the public. One of the diaries available is that of Thomas Minor, a 17th-century farmer who was born in England and came to New England in 1630.
For 30 years Minor recorded his day-to-day activities, family events, and local affairs. He used his diary to keep track of the months and years. The diary also documents interactions with indigenous individuals. Thomas, his wife Grace, and their children lived in what is now Stonington, a town on the Connecticut coast. Thomas had a number of public responsibilities including serving as town treasurer, leader of the militia, selectman, and brander of horses. He also participated in church and town meetings.
Hill-Stead Museum and its 152-acre campus is a National Historic Landmark. Nearing its 75th anniversary, Hill-Stead is a cultural hub with world-class art holdings and a brand-new space for exhibitions and programming. Hill-Stead’s gorgeous grounds and gardens remain open to the public daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for winter activities such as hiking, sledding, and snowshoeing!
Hill-Stead Museum, Hillstead.org
New National Historic Places
The State Historic Preservation Office is pleased to announce two additions to the National Register of Historic Placesthat recognize Civil Rights history. The National Register of Historic Places, a program of the National Park Service, is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to protect our nation’s historic and archeological resources.
The New Haven Armory (a.k.a. Goffe Street Armory) was used by the Second Company Governor’s Foot guard until 2009. It is an example of later armory architecture in which engineering advances provided for the construction of the massive 32,000-square-foot drill shed (above). It had an important role in the African American Civil Rights Movement for its association with the Black Panther rally in 1970 and as the venue for the annual Black Expo.
Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden is significant as an excellent example of Modern architecture and for the congregation’s commitment to social justice and the Civil Rights Movement. In 1960 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there, drawing an audience from outside the congregation. [See “Site Lines: Gaining Religious Equality,” Spring 2016.]
Happy Golden Days
The Friends of Wood Memorial Library & Museum’s Annual Gingerbread House Festival is back for its 11th year, November 26 – December 19! Visitors will enjoy a winter wonderland of gingerbread houses. Seasonal gifts and treats will be offered for sale. The festival is free and open to the public.
Wood Memorial Library & Museum, Woodmemoriallibrary.org
An Inside Look
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture has installed six works of art in its John Motley Study Center. Co-curated by Collections Manager/Gallery Administrator Moriah Peoples and the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Krieble Curator of American Paintings Erin Monroe, the capsule exhibition seeks to increase awareness of self-taught African American artists who created work outside of the mainstream art world and were thus labeled as “folk” or “outsider” artists. The works, from both organizations’ collections and dating from the 1930s to the 1990s, address powerful themes such as identity and faith. Watch an online Curatorial Coffee Hour video in which Peoples speaks about the life and art of Norwich-born Ellis Ruley (above).
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, AmistadCenter.org
A Sister Tells Her Story
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/.
Tours and Talks
The Mark Twain House & Museum is open for guided tours year round. Due to COVID safety precautions, tour sizes are limited and tours often sell out ahead of time, so it’s best to reserve your spot in advance online. The museum offers a general tour filled with family anecdotes and history; living history tours featuring costumed actors portraying butler George Griffin, the Clemens family’s gossipy maid Lizzie Wills, and woman-of-the-house Livy Clemens, and a kids’ tour about the everyday life of daughters Susy, Clara, and Jean Clemens. For a full schedule and tour options visit MarkTwainHouse.org.
Every week the museum hosts best-selling authors, many in partnership with Harper’s Magazine. Authors talk about their latest books in conversation with an intriguing host. Recent guests have included Joyce Carol Oates, Preston & Child, Touré, Jodi Picoult, and Michael Connelly, among others. For information about upcoming virtual and in-person author programs and special Twain-related lectures visit MarkTwainHouse.org/Events.
The Mark Twain House & Museum, MarkTwainHouse.org
Support local vendors at the Noah Webster House Holiday Market, Friday, December 3, 5 - 8 p.m., and Saturday, December 4, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. With a variety of unique, handcrafted items, you’ll find gifts for everyone on your list! “Sip and shop” with adult beverages available for purchase on Friday evening.
Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, noahwebsterhouse.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, 2021 and January 15, 2022, 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 insights 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, HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org
Small Cemeteries Need Stewardship
Laurel Hill Cemetery, a state historic site, and Central Cemetery, both in Brookfield, have retained the services of Cohen and Wolf P.C. and Rob Creamer P.C. to facilitate a transition of fiduciary oversight and operation of the two small cemeteries. Discussions are underway with the Diocese of Bridgeport which has expressed interest in expanding its role in the region to provide an institutional and sustainable solution to community needs for burial, internment, and sepulture.
Laurel Hill Cemetery Association has launched an awareness campaign about the plight of small cemeteries with the help of Elements, a Branford-based design firm owned by Amy Graver, and photographer Tom Morlock. Online and print advertisements are running in CTbytheNumbers.news, Connecticut Explored, Preservation Connecticut News, Fairfield County Catholic, and Connecticut Magazine featuring the Ben Franklin quote, “To know the character of a community, I need only visit its cemeteries.”
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Centralcemetery.net
Deep Study of 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 conferences and become a member at asch-cthistory.org.