2016 Award of Merit Recipients
Danbury Railway Museum
Project - Restoration of Tonawanda Valley Observation Car, Honorable Mention
This impressive multiyear all volunteer effort by the Danbury Railway Museum restored the Tonawanda Valley, the last remaining example of the “Valley” series of observation cars, built by the Pullman Car Company in 1929 for the New York Central Railroad. These cars were used on the 20th Century Limited, the flagship train of the New York Central Railroad frequented by famous and wealthy passengers between New York City and Chicago. The Danbury Railway Museum raised the funds to complete this restoration through grants and a membership donation drive which culminated in its inclusion in the 100th anniversary exhibit at Grand Central Station. The Danbury Railway Museum is to be commended for preserving this important part of the Golden Age of American railroad transportation history.
Connecticut Landmarks, Hartford, CT
Educational Program - History Youth Employment Program
Celebrating its 14th year in 2015, Connecticut Landmarks’ History Youth Employment Program provides an opportunity for Hartford high school students to develop job skills, learn about Hartford’s cultural and historical assets, and contribute to the future care and ultimate success of the organization’s historic house museums. The program introduces inner city minority students to the cultural resources in their community through hands-on projects, field trips, and primary source research. The teens keep journals of their experiences and share them with the public through oral presentations, visual displays, the program website, and in Poor Yorick, a Western Connecticut State University literary journal.This innovative program allows students to both earn wages and prepare for college, while they experience the power history organizations have to shape and share community values.
Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, New Haven, CT
Educational Program - STEMfems: Women Transforming Our World
STEMfems is the third module in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame’s award-winning DIY History program, a series of free and flexible educational modules that can be facilitated for groups of young people by classroom teachers, librarians, after-school program educators and community group leaders. STEMfems encourages students to explore the issues surrounding Connecticut women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each themed module is based on Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Inductees’ inspirational stories and connects them to current events through short texts and a variety of discussion, multi-media, and hands-on creative projects. This program excels because it uses Connecticut history to tell America’s story and highlights the important contribution of women and minorities in Connecticut history.
Fairfield Museum and History Center
Project - The Pequot War and the Founding of Fairfield, 1637-1639
The Pequot War and the Founding of Fairfield is a collaboratively developed exhibit to commemorate the 375th anniversary of Fairfield and significantly enhanced and furthered the understanding of Connecticut history through an examination of the seminal event that led to the creation of the Town of Fairfield. The exhibit was successful in increasing visitor awareness about the history of the Pequot War, dispelling myths surrounding Connecticut’s Native American tribes and illuminating the significant role Native people played in the town’s origin. At the same time, all stages of exhibit development, from initial collaboration to educational program development, engaged a significant new audience. Through original documents, nineteenth-century prints, previously un-exhibited archaeological finds, rare examples of Pequot and early American material culture, and 3D models, the exhibit brought a heretofore little know part of the town’s history to life.
Gunn Historical Museum, Washington, CT
Project - Over There: Washington and the Great War
The Gunn Historical Museum commemorated the 100th anniversary of World War One with the community-curated exhibit, Over There: Washington and the Great War, and a diverse series of public programs. An innovative virtual tour of the exhibit was also created so that the exhibit and the rich story will have a continuing presence online. Over There explored a previously undocumented part of the town’s history through original research conducted by a team of volunteers. Extensive efforts were made to reach out to the community to collect and share the stories and artifacts of Washington’s WWI residents, including students from The Gunnery who worked with the museum to document their school’s role in the war. Letters from the battlefield were shared, home front activities of women were featured, and a hallway was resourcefully converted into a life-size trench for visitors to walk through complete with barbed wire, mud, and rats. Through this exhibit the stories, events, and people of Washington, Connecticut during World War One were brought back to life in a way that engaged the community in exciting ways.
Kent Historical Society
Project - The Camps of Kent: Memories of SummerThe Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer was the annual history exhibit at the Kent Historical Society in 2015. The town of Kent has a rich trove of material documenting the history of summer camps as it was home to about a dozen residential camps, where parents sent their children to get away from city living and enjoy the idyllic restorative features of rural country life. As well-known in the community as this history was, the details, artifacts and histories of the camps were largely unknown and undocumented. The Kent Historical Society made an extra effort to reach out to the community and former campers to collect their camp stories. Each camp was extensively researched to document the founders, camp philosophy and mission, physical location, remaining structures, and oral histories. Programs like camp reunions and site visits to former camp properties were organized. The camps of Kent hold a very special place in the hearts of the former campers and the exhibit was able to successfully connect and resonate with the audience. At the end of the exhibit, the Kent Historical Society found that their archives and object collections were now rich with photos, artifacts and stories that document this story.
Noank Historical Society and Lawrence R. Jacobsen, Penny Newbury and Louisa Watrous
Publication - Celebrating the Emma C. Berry
The Noank Historical Society’s book, Celebrating the Emma C. Berry, tells the story of the last known fishing smack in the United States and was published in June 2015, two months before the author’s death at age 94, to commemorate the 150th birthday of the boat in 2016. Built in Noank, Connecticut in 1866, she’s an example of the type of vessel that made Noank world-famous for this design. Lawrence “Larry” Jacobsen’s overview, with accompanying photos and illustrations, follows the Emma C. Berry and her owners, crew, and admirers, as she underwent changes in rig design from sloop to schooner, and changes in service from fishing boat to lobster transport to coasting schooner to cargo carrier to private yacht, finally being donated to Mystic Seaport Museum in 1969, where she was fully restored and is now a floating exhibit. The Noank Historical Society is to be congratulated for publishing a well researched and written book that documents, preserves, and celebrates Connecticut’s maritime history.
Roger P. Plaskett, Harwinton, CT
Roger Plaskett was appointed municipal historian for the town of Harwinton in 2006 and is the “go to” person for answers to questions about Harwinton history and genealogy research. Roger is the past vice president and a current member and historian of the Harwinton Historical Society, director of the T.A. Hungerford Memorial Library Museum, member of the Harwinton Historic District and Historical Properties Commission, and historian for the Barber Family Reunion, a group with roots in Harwinton that has gathered annually for about 140 years. Roger’s list of accomplishments in the area of historic preservation is long, varied and exceptional. He has expanded and modernized the role of town historian by establishing a Harwinton history website, digitizing most of the old photographs and scrapbooks for the Harwinton Historical Society and T.A. Hungerford Museum, and launching an oral history project. Roger led the efforts to save and relocate the historic “Harwinton House” from demolition in New Canaan, led the preservation of an Indian soap stone quarry in Harwinton, created a map and index of the second oldest burial site in Harwinton, designed the Harwinton Historic District Handbook, and has created history programs that appeal to all ages like the Harwinton Cemetery Walk. Roger is to be commended for his dedication to preserving and sharing the history of Harwinton.
Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich, CT
Project -John Meyer of Norwich, An American Original
John Meyer of Norwich: An American Original was an exhibit at the Slater Memorial Museum that featured over three hundred pieces of clothing designed by John Meyer from the decade of the company’s most productive and popular work, 1959-1969. In the middle of the twentieth century, John Meyer of Norwich was an innovator in fashion for an emerging demographic of career women and college girls. Working with other technological innovators, he revolutionized the garment manufacturing process, introducing cutting-edge methods still used today. Now considered classics of 20th Century design and function, the company’s line of clothing featured everything from “Bermuda” shorts to preppy A-line skirts, Argyle to Fair Isle sweaters. The Slater Museum, worked in close collaboration with John Meyer’s eldest child and the children of those who worked with John Meyer, to collect objects and stories for the exhibit and a team of dozens of volunteers installed the exhibit. Two films and a quality exhibit catalog also successfully shared the in-depth research on fashion, manufacturing, social life, and religion in Norwich.
Thomas Mulholland, Cheshire, CT
Individual Achievement - Restoration of Dormitory Room at the Cheshire Historical Society
Thomas Mulholland is a sixteen year old resident of Cheshire who is passionate about history. In 2014 he approached the Cheshire Historical Society with an Eagle Scout Project to restore a third floor storage room in poor condition in the Society’s 1785 house museum, to a high school student dormitory room, which was the function of this room and the entire house from the 1920s to 1969 when Cheshire Academy owned the property. This was an ambitious project that Thomas organized and completed within set time lines. Thomas conducted in-depth research, reached out to the community to obtain authentic items to furnish the room, recruited a team of volunteers to help, kept the public updated on his project through social media, and gave many tours after the project was completed, including to Cheshire Academy alumni who used to live in the building. Thomas is to be congratulated for his dedication in leading this meaningful project that reconnected the house to its own history by faithfully recreating Dormitory Room #10, the strong effort that he made to reach out to the community and the positive response that he received from the public.
Westport Historical Society
Publication - The New Yorker in Westport
The New Yorker in Westport is a beautiful book by Eve Potts and Andrew Bentley, published by the Westport Historical Society in 2015, that documents and celebrates Westport’s artistic and cultural heritage. The book features fifty New Yorker magazine covers of iconic Westport scenes that were drawn by local artists and fifty accompanying short stories about Westport’s history written by the authors. The book is a testament to the over 750 New Yorker magazine covers produced by Westport artists between 1925 and 1988. The book quickly became a best seller, created an enthusiastic buzz about the history of Westport, and resonated with the entire community. The Westport Historical Society is to be praised for the imaginative and creative way that they shared the stories and history of their town in this wonderful book.
Windsor Historical Society
Project - Strong-Howard House Reinterpretation
The Windsor Historical Society’s authentic restoration and innovative reinterpretation of the Strong-Howard House and the accompanying quality guide book are to be held high as a new model for historic house museums. In 2009, the Society began planning for a capital campaign to make major upgrades and stabilize the structure. They always offered the standard “Look, don’t touch” tour given in many historic homes across the country, but the prospect of restoration provided them with an opportunity to address a significant challenge for our field: how to draw the public to yet another historic home. Surveys conducted by the Windsor Historical Society indicated that many visitors yearn for an “authentic experience” drawing upon the power of a real place, using all the senses, where stories of the lives of earlier inhabitants play out. The Windsor Historical Society decided to think outside of the box and offer a new immersive experience where visitors could touch and discover, and offer a variety of ways for audiences to access the home. They refurnished this home not with antiques, but with reproduction artifacts that could be handled and used. Visitors can try out chairs and the bed, pull out desk drawers to examine letters and accounts, sort through a high chest to find items of clothing, and periodically experience hearth cooking. The Windsor Historical Society is to be commended for their reinterpretation of the Strong-Howard House allowing it to become a “learning laboratory for historic home tours” and serving as a model for the entire history community with their creation of a “please touch” museum that allows visitors to tangibly engage with local history.
2015 Award of Merit Recipients
Archaeological and Historical Services, Inc.
Publication - Highways to History: The Archaeology of Connecticut’s 18th-Century Lifeways
Highways to History is a publication describing the lives of ordinary residents in 18th century colonial Connecticut. Based on a combination of historical and archaeological investigations at four buried homesteads, the book opens a new window into how people in Connecticut lived in colonial times. Distributed around the state, and made available online, Highways to History provides an accessible and engaging account of how ordinary colonial Connecticut citizens lived, and demonstrates the strength of combining archaeological and documentary evidence.
Bated Breath Theatre Company (a collaboration with The Amistad Center for Art & Culture)
Educational Program - Freedom: In 3 Acts
Freedom: In 3 Acts is a collaborative performance between The Amistad Center for Art & Culture and Bated Breath Theatre Company. This innovative program responded to and amplified The Amistad Center’s exhibition, Emancipation!The three act performance incorporates song, movement and narrative to explore the struggle for freedom and justice for African Americans. Since its initial performance, Bated Breath Theatre Company has performed Freedom: In 3 Acts at a variety of venues, using its innovative and engaging approach to bring the original exhibit off the walls and out of the exhibit cases to engage audiences around Connecticut.
Cheshire Historical Society
Educational Program - Cheshire Heritage Tour – An App for Mobile Devices
Looking to bring a traditional walking tour of the center of Cheshire alive, The Cheshire Historical Society developed an app that appeals to people of many ages and interest. Free to download, the app combines humor, seldom-seen images from the Historical Society’s collection, and contemporary photos and maps to guide the user around the center of town. With the help of two characters, Alonzo the Adventurer and Emmy, the Magical History Box, the Cheshire Heritage Tour keeps visitors engaged while learning about the history of the area.
Florence Griswold Museum
Project - Thistles and Crowns: The Painted Chests of the Connecticut Shore
In 2014 the Florence Griswold Museum presented the exhibition Thistles and Crowns: The Painted Chests of the Connecticut Shore to highlight the distinctive beauty and historical significance of a group of painted chests made in Old Saybrook and Guilford, Connecticut between 1700 and 1740. Bringing together a selection of these chests from six museums for the first time since 1950, the exhibit asked visitors to look at aspects of construction, decoration, use and history. Accompanied by a full-color catalog, Thistles and Crowns highlighted stories about Connecticut’s artistic, cultural, and historical legacies that can be found in unexpected places.
Kent Historical Society
Project - Iron, Wood, and Water: Essential Elements of the Evolution of Kent
As the site of the second most valuable iron ore deposit in Connecticut, Kent became a desirable place to live for iron works, and the impact of their activities had deep influence on the evolution of Kent into the community it is today. While much scholarly research explores the technicalities of the iron making process and the entrepreneurs who ran the industry, the exhibition, Iron, Wood and Water: Essential Elements of the Evolution of Kent told the story of the common men who toiled daily in the mines, at the furnaces, and deep in the woods. It was these workers who left impressions on the community and played a large role in transforming Kent first from an untamed wilderness to a bustling industrial town, and later to a community of dairy farmers and finally to the home for artists and writers that it is today.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum and Stephen Fan, Guest Curator
Project - SubUrbanisms: Casino Company Town / China Town
In 2014 the Lyman Allyn Art Museum opened Suburbanisms: Casino Company Town/ China Town. Using a variety of approaches the exhibit documented and historicized the development of a suburban Chinatown surrounding the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. Built up by a large number of Asian casino patrons and workers – many recent immigrants - this innovative exhibition presented an under-explored topic in Connecticut’s and the nation’s history. In addressing key themes in suburban, housing, labor, and immigrant history, the exhibit used history to bridge cultural divides and to question the future ecological, social, and economic sustainabilites of the ever-changing American suburban ideal.
Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, CT
Project – The Way We Worked – Connecticut At Work
As one of seven venues selected to host The Way We Worked, a traveling exhibition created by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, the Mattatuck Museum sought to create a parallel group of exhibitions and a series of programs to bring the story home to Connecticut audiences. Know as Connecticut At Work, the resulting local exhibitions, film series, lectures, and programs engaged broad and diverse audiences and addressed issues of immediate concern. Through providing a local backdrop for the Smithsonian’s exhibition, Connecticut At Work merged the national story with the regional one.
Norfolk Historical Society
Project - From the Mills to the Main Street: The Irish in Norfolk
From the Mills to Main Street: The Irish in Norfolk was an inventive interpretive exhibition mounted by the Norfolk Historical Society in 2014. Using historical documents, artifacts, photographs, and ephemera, many not previously on view, the exhibit explored the contribution and assimilation of the Irish in the town of Norfolk from 1836 to 1920. The well-attended exhibit and related programming that included lectures, gallery talks, and walking tours, brought to life the importance of a significant immigrant group to the economic and cultural landscape of Norfolk.
Wesleyan University Press, Connecticut Explored, The Amistad Center
Publication - African American Connecticut Explored
African American Connecticut Explored is the first book published for a public history audience that provides the long arc of the African American experience in Connecticut with an emphasis on the African American perspective. Through more than 50 essays by more than 30 of the state’s leading historians, curators, and writers, the book covers a wide range of topics. Published by Wesleyan University Press, it was developed by Connecticut Explored, The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, and representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office.
Wethersfield Historical Society
Project - Castle on the Cove: the Connecticut State Prison and Wethersfield
Mounted in 2014, and on view through 2016 the exhibition Castle on the Cove: the Connecticut State Prison and Wethersfield, explores the Connecticut State Prison during its years of operation between 1827 and 1963 in Wethersfield, Connecticut. The prison was an integral component of the town’s identity during these formative years as Wethersfield transitioned from rural town to suburb. Exploring both previously undocumented and often requested materials the exhibit looks at the prison from the perspectives of the inmate, employee, and local resident to present the history of the prison within a broad context and to encourage visitors to consider the impact of the prison on these three groups.
2014 Award of Merit Recipients
Carolyn Bacdayan – Individual Achievement Award
Carolyn Bacdayan of Lyme, Connecticut is being honored for her leadership in establishing the Lyme Local History Archives as an entity of the Lyme Public Hall Association. Through her hard work, dedication, and perseverance the Archives were established in 2008. In addition to her crucial role in its organization, she has remained dedicated to the cause by volunteering as its unpaid archivist for more than eleven years.
Connecticut Landmarks – Educational Program
In the summer of 2013, 28 New London students explored Connecticut Landmark’s Hempsted Houses and used their discoveries to inspire creative expression about contemporary issues, and to make history come to life. Their resulting original production, The Slave Inside Me, brought together dance, song, and spoken word to explore the history of slavery in New London, and to ask all of us to think about the slave inside ourselves.
Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame – Education Program
Votes for Women: Connecticut Women Changing Democracy is the pilot module of the newest Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame educational program, DIY History. DIY History is a series of flexible educational modules that can be facilitated for groups of young people by classroom teachers, librarian, after-school program educators and community group leaders. Through this free program that utilizes primary and secondary source materials, young people have the opportunity to develop and apply essential 21st century skills while exploring an important part of Connecticut’s history.
Gunn Historical Museum – Project, Exhibit
In commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Swedish Salem Covenant Church in Washington Depot, the Gunn Historical Museum mounted the exhibition, Coming to America: Washington’s Swedish Immigrants. This exhibit shared the little-known story of the over one hundred Swedish families who made Washington their new home beginning in 1870. For over a year, 85 volunteers and contributors conducted original research that culminated in this community curated exhibit featuring objects loaned from the descendants of Washington’s Swedish immigrants.
Dr. Luccianne Lavin – Publication
Last year Yale University Press published Dr. Luccianne Lavin’s book, Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples: What Archaeology, History and Oral Traditions Teach Us about Their Communities and Cultures. This pioneering book is the first to provide a full account of Connecticut’s Native Americans from the long ago time of their arrival to the present day. It is a ground breaking volume on the rich 10,000 year plus histories and cultures of Connecticut’s indigenous communities.
New Haven Museum – Project, Exhibit
On view from June 2013 through May 2014 the New Haven Museum’s exhibit, Beyond the New Township: Wooster Square, explored the Wooster Square neighborhood of New Haven in the last of a three-part series of neighborhood exhibitions. By incorporating more than 200 objects from the Museum’s photo, manuscript, and fine and decorative arts collections, this exhibit explored the rich past of the neighborhood and touched on topics such as industry, immigration, urban planning, and preservation. Working to connect the present to the past, the local community served as volunteers, content contributors, and engagers through the planning and implementation phases, creating a true neighborhood exhibit.