191 Years of Telling Connecticut’s Story. A new era of community-fed interpretation.

picture of the Connecticut Historical Society by Jody Blankenship, executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society

On May 30, 1825 thirty-one men from across the state of Connecticut met at the State House for the first meeting of the newly chartered Connecticut Historical Society. At this gathering The Rev. Thomas Robbins gave remarks on the “objects of the Society,” the members elected officers, and the group formed a committee to draft a constitution and by-laws. The first article of that constitution states, “It shall be the duty of every member of this Society to obtain and communicate information relative to the civil, ecclesiastical & natural history of this State & of the United States.”

On May 18, 2015 the board, membership and staff of the Connecticut Historical Society will gather again for an annual meeting that will begin our 191st year. Like at the first meeting, we will elect officers and trustees to the Board, we will give “remarks” about the Society, and we will affirm every member’s duty to collect, preserve, and share Connecticut’s history. I hope you will join us at 5:30 p.m. in the Veeder Living Room at the CHS for the 2015 Annual Membership Meeting of the Connecticut Historical Society. If you are not a member you can join the CHS at chs.org/support-ct-historical/membership/.

50 Objects 50 StoriesFollowing the meeting, we’ll be opening a new exhibition. The idea behind this exhibit began to take shape about eighteen months ago. As we travel around Connecticut many kind people give us advice about living in this state. Some of the advice is controversial – like who makes the best pizza, or whether one should cheer for the Yankees or the Red Sox. Others offer their assessment on the character of this “Land of Steady Habits” – what are the regional variations, what it means to be a Nutmegger, and how various towns contributed to the distinct story of our state. It occurred to us that Connecticut doesn’t have ONE defining story. We have MANY stories.

At the CHS we struggled to figure out how a statewide organization charged with connecting you with Connecticut’s story could ever do justice to our rich and complex history. One of the solutions we came up with became our new exhibit, “Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories.”

This is truly a special exhibit. In keeping with that first article of the CHS’s original constitution, we challenged the public to share the stories that define our state’s history, and the public responded. As I write this, people have submitted more than 150 stories to the online gallery (chs.org/50Objects), and more arrive every day. From these submissions, the CHS’s staff has been working with partners at Connecticut’s universities, publications, and historical organizations to choose fifty stories that will be displayed in the physical exhibit. These fifty stories are not meant to be a definitive reflection of Connecticut. Instead, they have been chosen to reflect part of our state’s complex and fascinating history; and most importantly, to begin a conversation about who we are, how we have come to be, and where we aspire to go.

Come visit “Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories,” see what your friends and neighbors have submitted, and join the conversation.

“Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories” opens at CHS on Tuesday, May 19 and continues to Saturday, October 24. Find out more at https://chs.org/exhibition/connecticut-50-objects-50-stories/.

Jody Blankenship believes that history provides a framework and context for understanding and thriving in our ever-changing world. As executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society, he understands that Connecticut’s unique narrative encompasses a broad swath of the American experience that gives us perspective about who we are and where we are going.

Before joining CHS in 2013, Jody served as education director at the Kentucky Historical Society and outreach and field services manager at the Ohio Historical Society. He is a graduate of the American Association of State and Local History’s Seminar for Historical Administration. He received an MA in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York at Oneonta, and a BA in History and Education from Ohio Northern University.

Under Jody’s leadership, the Connecticut Historical Society is collaborating with the numerous historical organizations across the state that are collecting, interpreting and sharing Connecticut’s story. He continually seeks opportunities where history can be applied for the advancement of the public good, supporting the creativity, passion and courage of our state’s residents to act on the critical challenges of our time.

Tags: , ,