By Sara Plante, Visitor Services Associate at the CHS
In the summer of 2014, the exhibit Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Screen and Stage was on display at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS). I had just begun to work at the welcome desk and was impressed by the droves of people who visited the exhibit every day. Many visitors returned multiple times, and several people stopped by the front desk excitedly to tell me of how they’d been connected to Hepburn’s family personally. They had all come to remember a shared experience, and in doing so created a community that celebrated Katharine Hepburn’s life and career.
This personalization of history has spanned many of our exhibits and programs. The (Re) Building Hartford: A City Captured by Artist Richard Welling exhibit, which featured artist Richard Welling, drew to the CHS many people who had personal recollections of him sketching on the streets of Hartford. These Welling enthusiasts owned his prints or knew him personally. The exhibit served as a building block to which their individual stories were added.
When it comes to exhibits such as these, the enthusiasm is often palpable. Visitors will tell you how excited they are that the museum has made a point to remember an idea, person, place or time that is important and relevant to them. When I see people’s joy and hear their stories, I am able to experience the significance of these things through them. Visitors add to the exhibit with their memories and by sharing their stories with those less connected.
This is what history can do: it draws people together and creates a community around personal experiences and interests that honors and remembers specific events, places and people. Institutions like the CHS are able to serve as a junction that brings together and has the potential to build many different communities. By spanning various age groups, ethnicities, and interests with varied exhibits and programs, we are able to share the lives and passions of individuals throughout history with all Connecticut’s residents.
We all want to tell our stories and places like CHS provide the opportunity to do just that. I encourage you to consider contributing to our upcoming exhibit, Growing Up in Connecticut. Similar to our current exhibit, Connecticut: 50 Objects / 50 Stories, Growing Up in Connecticut will pull directly from Connecticut residents’ personal experiences of their childhood and adolescence. Don’t pass up the opportunity to share your experiences, to draw together with those who can add to them. I look forward to hearing more of your stories!
Sara Plante is Visitor Service Associate at the Connecticut Historical Society. She welcomes and orients CHS guests, oversees purchases, responds a diverse array of inquiries and provides support to CHS programs, educational outreach, exhibitions and operations. Proud to play a role in bringing Connecticut’s history to life for CHS visitors, she is inspired by her colleague’s work to preserve and promote the CHS collection. Sara believes in the importance of incorporating history into our daily lives, using the past to inform our present.
About the Connecticut Historical Society
A private, nonprofit, educational organization established in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. Located at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford, the CHS houses a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center that are open to the public and funded by private contributions. The CHS’s collection includes more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials accessible at our campus and on loan at other organizations.
The CHS collection, programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities, and make informed decisions based on our past and present.