By Dani Frank
Connecticut Historical Society
One Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Hours: Tues to Fri 12 pm – 5 pm; Sat 9 am – 5 pm
Admission: $6 for adults, $3 for seniors aged 65 and over, students with college ID, or aged 6 through 17
Framed by a backdrop of nine vibrantly-colored walls, antiquities such as a rotary phone, cast-iron stove, antique toolkit and more set the scene for a colorful journey through over 400 years of history at the Connecticut Historical Society’s revolutionary new exhibit, “Making Connecticut.”
The first permanent exhibit to open at the Historical Society in 12 years, “Making Connecticut” enlightens visitors to the colonization and development of the Nutmeg State. Aided by a trusty trail of information in the form of maps, documents, films and over 500 artifacts, visitors will travel from pre-colonial days to present day in this expansive, 4,000 square foot exhibition.
Begin your journey at the state’s origins, housing the indigenous Quinnetukut Indians in the 1500s. Continue exploring Connecticut’s growth through eight segments of history, ending with “Building Modern Life” from 1945 to the present day. The exhibit is both educational and interactive and allows visitors the opportunity to experience pioneer life for themselves.
Sew a Native American moccasin, feel the fabric of antique clothing and sweep a colonial kitchen for a hands-on experience of our ancestors’ way of life. For the low fee of $6 admission, enjoy hours spent admiring Connecticut’s heirlooms and layers of history to arrive at a deeper understanding of the state we know and love.
Kate Steinway, executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society said, “Through this exhibit, we hope to provide people with an appreciation for the past and a better understanding of the State in which they live. In particular, we hope to inspire a love of history in young children with this exhibit, so they can take an active role in shaping the future – which will one day be their history.”
– Although young minds may be averse to reading lengthy paragraphs about the nine time periods, they certainly won’t mind participating in them! Test your skills as an employee of another era while sketching chair designs for a furniture factory or replacing bobbins in a textile mill.
– Tour the exhibit’s four kitchens and compare modern day treats to the plate fillers of the past. Examine what foods were eaten in early Connecticut and how they indicate the social and economic climate of past generations. Kids can prepare a colonial kitchen table for dinner and later step into a 1980s version for a culinary-themed time travel.
– Enjoy one of the exhibit’s multimedia features with a viewing party in the reconstructed theater of yore. Decorating the theatre are Connecticut movie posters of the past, giving a look at local cinema. Take in a showing of vintage film clips and commercials, including silent black and white films from the 1930s.
– Visit the “Farms to Factories” segment, following the period of 1820-186. “Making of Connecticut” has replicated multiple factories to give visitors an experience in the duties required as a worker at a chair factory, textile factory and World War II assembly line. Conversely, for a sampling of farm life, visit the exhibit’s tobacco shade farm.
Dani Frank is a fashion, travel and culture enthusiast and writer living in Easton, Connecticut. Feel free to peruse her professional work and opinions.