We are pleased to announce the recipients of CLHO's 2023 Awards of Merit for Projects and Individual Achievement. We honored the awardees at our virtual Annual Business Meeting and Awards of Merit Presentation on April 18, 2023. You can watch a video of the presentation on our YouTube channel. You may also download the 2023 Annual Business Meeting and Awards of Merit Presentation Program Booklet.
Grating the Nutmeg Podcast
A joint production of Connecticut Explored Magazine, Connecticut Historical Society, and the Connecticut State Historian Emeritus Dr. Walter Woodward, Grating the Nutmeg has chronicled Connecticut history through 155 biweekly podcasts since its 2016 inception. Each episode highlights fresh perspectives and new research, and explains how the research was conducted. As part of the 20th anniversary of Connecticut Explored magazine, the 20 for 20: Innovation in Connecticut History project crowd-sourced nominations from the public on “game changing” people and organizations who have pioneered new directions in Connecticut history. The 20 “Game Changers” selected brought attention to marginalized stories from Connecticut history, including African American, Indigenous, and Latinx topics. This innovative example of digital public history provides opportunities for listeners to learn from the voices of people directly involved in doing history work.
The Bicycle Game
This exhibition explores the impact of the 1890s bicycle craze as it unfolded in Connecticut, home to one of the era’s largest bicycle manufacturing companies, through themes of technological innovation, manufacturing strategies and systems, and social impact. Partnering with a local game designer and craftspeople resulted in a new approach to interactive exhibits with the creation of an experiential learning process in a playable format for all ages. As visitors play The Bicycle Game, they undertake challenges through 25 games appealing to different learning styles to thwart a fictional villain inventor who is erasing bicycles from the historical record, and preserve this important Connecticut story. With a focus on playful experiences, this exhibition gives joy to learning about history.
The John Brown Project
The film, His Truth is Marching On–an excerpt from the lyrics of the popular Civil War era song John Brown’s Body–is a well-researched and skillful blend of history, music, and commentary that reexamines an historical figure. Changing renditions of the song through a musical timeline of genres leading to hip hop, weave American musical history with civil rights history to illustrate the historical and contemporary importance of Torrington’s John Brown.
It explores the significance of white allies and interracial collaboration in advocacy for equality, and social and cultural reform. Producing and premiering the film in Brown’s hometown of Torrington, connected national, state, and local history, placing a Connecticut community within the broader sweep of history.
Community Voices: Digitizing 50 Years of Oral Histories
The Oral History Collection is the heart of the Society’s community-based archive. This project digitized 820 recordings representing 50 years of collecting–mostly on magnetic cassette tapes at risk of deterioration–along with existing transcripts and photographs and uploaded them to the Connecticut Digital Archive/CTDA for long-term preservation and public access.
Using the digital files, new technology was piloted for enhanced accessibility to these recordings, complete with searchable and interactive transcripts to place researchers directly to points of interest within the recordings. This project addressed pivotal and urgent needs for digitization and accessibility, and established an innovative and exemplary model for other organizations undertaking digitization of their oral history collections.
Memento Mori - Remember Death
This book illustrates the lives of 22 individuals buried in Farmington’s ancient burying ground known as Memento Mori Cemetery for the words on the entrance gate. What started out with the Wednesday Research Group of volunteers grew to become a community project. Thoroughly researched, well-written and documented, and accompanied by photographs of the gravestones and related objects in the Stanley-Whitman House’s collection, the author’s critical eye for historical integrity and detail brings new information to light and debunks myths; thus, telling a more complete story of Farmington through the lives of those interred from 1620 to 1845. Memento Mori offers a detailed glimpse into the history of Farmington across three centuries and demonstrates how headstones with brief epitaphs can reveal many stories.
The Last Night
This original play was commissioned to mark the 360th anniversary of the end of accusations, persecution, and hanging for witchcraft in the Connecticut Colony. It is a dramatization about two women convicted as witches and the night before their hanging in January 1663, and consisted of a sold-out live performance, online video, and an interview podcast.
Created by playwrights and actors based on historical research and informed conjecture, the play tells the compelling story of the Hartford witch panics and trials through the portrayal of the accused Mary Barnes and Rebecca Greensmith, the last convicted witches executed in Connecticut. This project led to testimony presented for proposed legislation to exonerate those convicted of the alleged crime of witchcraft. Connecting the audience with this obscure and powerful history provoked reflection about events today.
Reinterpretation of the Coley House
Extensively researched and thoughtfully curated, this reinterpretation offers a cohesive and compelling experience of an historic house at a particular time and place. First-floor rooms focus on domestic life in the 1940s–a period of rich documentation when the last Coley family members resided there. This fresh interpretation and visitor experience consists of a docent-led tour of the first-floor rooms. Then provides three self-guided exhibits for deeper engagement and learning that extend to the second floor: Life in the 40s, Let’s Play, and Twelve Stories of Weston which places the house in the context of events that impacted the town. Reflecting an excellent balance of micro- and macro-histories with a creative combination of historic room interpretation and exhibition space, it stands out as an example of 20th-century history that is rarely covered by historic house museums in Connecticut.
Finding the Forgotten: The Enslaved of Wilton
This documentary short film and school program explore the impact of the practice of slavery in Wilton. Thorough research delved into probate inventories, wills, church records, and federal censuses with a reexamination of extant research of the town’s slave-owning families to find the enslaved population whose presence in and contributions to Wilton have been forgotten.
To a modern landscape that is filled with the names of white settlers in road names and on cemetery gravestones, this project rediscovered the enslaved people who lived here and helped build the town. A new resource page has been added to the WHS website with videos, documents, and research data for educators, researchers, and the general public. This project represents dedication to revealing this under-represented history, and provides an excellent template for further work in this important subject matter.
Catherine K. Fields
As the Director of the Litchfield Historical Society for 35 years, Catherine Keene Fields is a rare example of a person who has dedicated the bulk of her career to the development and success of one institution. Cathy applied her passion for history with business acumen to lead LHS through completion of three capital campaign projects, transformation of the Tapping Reeve House, construction of a specially designed collections storage building, two AAM re-accreditations, and tremendous growth of the endowment. Under her exceptional leadership and commitment, LHS has consistently delivered innovative, award-winning interpretation, exhibitions, publications, and programs based on solid scholarship, becoming the highly-regarded institution it is today.
Throughout her career, Cathy has generously shared her time and expertise serving on multiple boards including AASLH, ASCH, CT Explored, CLHO, NEMA, the Litchfield Preservation Trust, and CT Humanities as Chair of the Application Review Committee. She has been an AAM accreditation reviewer for fifteen sites, a frequent speaker at conferences, and has mentored numerous staff members, interns, and museum colleagues who attribute their success to her teaching and encouragement.
Cathy is a thoughtful, talented, motivating, imaginative leader with curiosity and willingness to listen who has been a determined force for history museums in Connecticut, New England, and nationally who has made an important impact to the public history field.
Richard C. Malley
Throughout his 42-year career, Richard Malley’s infectious passion for history, archaeology and preservation, and generosity with sharing his knowledge, have had a profound impact on deepening the understanding of Connecticut history. During tenures at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, Connecticut Historical Society, Mariners’ Museum, and Mystic Seaport, he crafted the art of “All Things Collections”–research, writing, exhibitions, collections care, and access–always with a smile.
Rich has a jack-of-all-trades knowledge on anything and everything Connecticut history, and has been an inspiring mentor to countless researchers, scholars, visitors, and museum colleagues who have had the good fortune to work with him. His enduring commitment to the field has extended to volunteer roles including the Railroad Museum of New England, Connecticut River Museum, and Mystic Seaport. Additional contributions to the field include serving as a CLHO Board member, and as secretary of the Acorn Club, a group committed to publishing work about Connecticut history. In his retirement, Rich continues to work on contract projects and volunteer efforts in support of the museum field and remains a go-to source.
Elizabeth Normen spent her 35-year career bringing Connecticut’s history to the forefront as a content creator, author, editor, publisher, and museum professional. As co-founder and publisher of Connecticut Explored/Hog River Journal for 20 years, she worked with historians, historical societies, museums, and heritage projects, and demanded well-researched and well-cited stories that revealed new facets of the state’s history.
Her publishing work expanded the print magazine to websites, classroom resources, publications, a podcast, YouTube videos, and social media. She edited and published Where I Live: Connecticut, a third-grade social studies book and website about the history, geography, economics, and government of our state that has strongly influenced the teaching of Connecticut history. And she launched Grating the Nutmeg, the podcast of Connecticut history, in collaboration with the former Connecticut State Historian Dr. Walter Woodward, and served as co-producer.
Elizabeth’s commitment to promoting public history included serving on the boards of The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Connecticut Landmarks, Foundation for West Hartford Public School, and Farmington Valley Arts Center among others. The extensive and valuable resources she has created have made a meaningful impact on the teaching and learning of Connecticut topics throughout the state. Her remarkable work at Connecticut Explored, dedication to education, and authorship beyond the magazine have been a beacon for Connecticut history.