Inside the CHS

Being a Teacher- Part Two

June 2, 2014 · Education ·

Teaching in a museum setting is such a different experience than teaching in a school. As a museum educator I have a chance to work off of lesson plans,with no homework or tests, to grade. The students are there to have fun and most of the time they are excited to be out of the…
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“Weaving” History in the Research Center

May 30, 2014 · Collections ·

A recent visit from a researcher prompted a trip to retrieve some of the Warren book collection at CHS. She was looking for definitions relating to wool processes, and immediately I thought of the “Warren books” as a point of reference.

Decoration Day A Century Ago

May 29, 2014 · Collections ·

As the end of May approaches I begin my mental checklist of things to do over Memorial Day (originally named “Decoration Day”) weekend: mow the lawn, plant the vegetable garden, make barbeque plans (after consulting the weather gods), attend the local parade, maybe go biking or kayaking; oh, and put flowers on my parents’ graves….
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“Book of letters”

May 28, 2014 · Collections ·

One of my tasks in getting the Oliver Wolcott papers digitized and online is quality control—looking at each image to make sure it is clear and legible. I am up to box 18 (of 59!). When I got to the volumes of draft letters in box 16, I noticed the “docketing” on the reverse. It…
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Savin Rock Memories

May 27, 2014 · Collections ·

I didn’t really appreciate postcards until I began reading what was written on the backs of the cards.  Most postcard collectors like their cards in pristine condition, unused, never sent, but I prefer those that have been through the mail, carrying messages between friends and family members.  “Who said we couldn’t find our way?” a…
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Ahoy! It’s the Charles W Morgan at sea!

May 23, 2014 · Collections ·

“There isn’t anybody alive today who has seen a whaling ship with her sails up.” Richard “Kip” Files, Captain, Charles W. Morgan. This statement is about to be history itself. For the first time since 1941 (73 years), the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship, has gone beyond the confines of Mystic…
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How YOU can use our collections!

May 22, 2014 · Collections ·

I often marvel at the variety of ways the public uses our collections.  I thought it would be fun to give a run-down of some of the ways individuals have used, or could use, our vast collections here at CHS. 

Are you Mickey Mouse?

May 21, 2014 · Collections ·

One question we often get in the Waterman Research Center from researchers handling manuscripts is, shouldn’t I be wearing gloves? Here at CHS we have determined that clean hands are less damaging to the documents than gloves would be. Note the emphasis on clean. Your fingers are highly sensitive to the edges of pages, can…
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What is this?

May 20, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

What’s Not in This Picture?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a series of photographs taken during the 1880s by an unknown itinerant photographer, probably employed by the Northern Survey Company. The photographer traveled from town to town taking photographs of people’s houses, usually with the members of the family and their prized possessions arrayed on the…
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How Do You Know What You’re Looking At?

May 19, 2014 · Collections ·

Last Friday, I went to see Finding Vivian Maier at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Maier, a Chicago-area street photographer, made a living as a nanny in the mid-twentieth century. She took tens of thousands of photos of people she encountered while dragging the kids she cared for across the city, and then let those…
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Creating Participatory Exhibitions; Our Try It! Gallery

May 16, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

With all of the warranted hoopla surrounding our blockbuster exhibition, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, it’s easy to overlook other exhibitions at the Connecticut Historical Society. One exhibition that’s interactive and fun for all ages is Try It! Connecticut Places, People, Collections, & Me.

A High Tech Relic and the Other “Cable Guy”

May 15, 2014 · Collections ·

The long, frustrating search for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 serves as a reminder that the deepest parts of the ocean remain largely unexplored, as much terra incognita as the New World was to European explorers five centuries ago. In fact, we are told, scientists know more about the surface of the moon…
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A Who’s Who of the Early Republic

May 14, 2014 · Collections ·

Working with the papers of Oliver Wolcott Jr. really is like reading a Revolutionary War/Early Republic who’s who, as I mentioned in my previous post about our grant-funded project. I keep running across letters to or from the likes of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster.

On the Road with Richard Welling: Along the Maine Coast

May 13, 2014 · Collections ·

When I was growing up, my family spent two weeks in Maine every summer, and those were probably the best two weeks of my entire year. Later on, when I was grown up and living in the Boston area, I went to Maine frequently, both on weekend day trips and for extended vacations, exploring parts…
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He’s a Fixer Upper

May 12, 2014 · CHS Buzz ·

Ron Tanner is a do-it-yourselfer, whether he’s fixing up his historic Baltimore row house or embarking on a book tour. We’re eagerly awaiting his arrival here at CHS in his camper van with his trusty sidekick, his Bassett hound Cleo.

Not a Moment to Spare!

May 9, 2014 · Education ·

SO. BUSY. These two words sum up the schedule of our educators over the last few weeks. In April, the CHS Education Department served about 3,000 children, teachers, and parents through its educational programs. May is gearing up to be an even busier month for our department! So, please accept the following humorous photograph in…
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Illustrating Life

May 8, 2014 · Collections ·

Last week Rich Malley posted about the Billings and Spencer Company complex in Hartford. He illustrated his post with an amazing watercolor done in 1898 by Hiram P. Arms, a Hartford-based illustrator.  When I first saw the painting, which is quite large, I was intrigued by all of the little vignettes Arms included, as Rich…
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Everything Kate

May 7, 2014 · Collections ·

I thought I would “jump on the Kate bandwagon”, as it were, for this week’s post. We actually do have in the collection some letters written by the stage and screen star. They provide additional proof that her heart still belonged in part to Hartford and more particularly to the Asylum Hill Congregational Church.

What is this?

May 6, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

On the Road with Richard Welling: Octagon Houses

An “Octagon House” is just what it sounds like: an eight-sided dwelling. Octagon houses were something of a fad in 1850s America. They were promoted by a New York phrenologist names Orson Squire Fowler, who believed such houses were cheaper to build, easier to heat, and cooler in summer. Octagon houses are scattered all across…
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Being a Teacher- Part One

May 5, 2014 · Education ·

I have been working on a post about moving from the classroom to a museum setting, and my biggest issue has been how do you start, and how long of a post do I want to create? Without the past I can’t really compare the present, so I guess I will start at the beginning,…
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Pants are optional

May 2, 2014 · Exhibits ·

Have we had enough posts yet about Katharine Hepburn and her pants? I’ll let you decide, and to be precise for you Hepburn fans, they’re slacks, not pants. SLACKS. Hepburn was a fashion icon, and her embrace of slacks in a world of feminine Hollywood starlets upended the fashion status quo and encouraged women everywhere…
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A Legacy in Steel: Billings & Spencer Co.

May 1, 2014 · Collections ·

While it can be argued that these days Hartford is thought of as primarily a center of insurance and financial services, anyone driving through some of the neighborhoods just beyond downtown will be quick to note an impressive array of old industrial buildings. These brick and stone structures, some empty and unloved, others hosting a…
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Wolcott goes online

April 30, 2014 · Collections ·

With grant money from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division within the National Archives, we recently started a project to digitize manuscript collections that have already been captured on microfilm. The digitized images are going to be available on Connecticut History Online, and there will be links from our online finding…
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The Mapmaker’s Daughter

April 29, 2014 · Collections ·

  It’s a Cinderella story. Mary Pierson (1874-1949) was the daughter of Stephen C. Pierson, a civil engineer based in Meriden, Connecticut. The CHS has a large map of Meriden surveyed by Pierson in 1891. In 1898, his daughter Mary married Horace Bushnell Cheney, a member of the Cheney silk manufacturing dynasty. The couple traveled…
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The Philadelphia Story… A Connecticut Story?

April 28, 2014 · Collections ·

The Oscar-nominated movie that is known for its many catch phrases (“The calla lilies are in bloom again”) has a few distinct connections with the Nutmeg State. Katharine Hepburn, born of Hartford, created the role of Tracy Lord on the stage in 1939, which immediately preceded the 1940 on-screen release of The Philadelphia Story.

An Olympic medal, a G. Fox Bracelet, and a Katharine Hepburn Costume

April 25, 2014 · CHS Buzz ·

So, yesterday, on behalf of the Connecticut Historical Society, I attended the Connecticut Conference on Tourism in Hartford. Firstly, it is inspiring to see the number of wonderful institutions across Connecticut that are so passionate about what they are doing. There was lots of learning opportunities with workshops about social media, using video content, reaching…
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Trying New Things

April 24, 2014 · Collections ·

I had an idea of something to blog about today…but then I changed my mind.  Instead, I thought I would share something with you all (y’all if I was writing this from back in Illinois!).  So many times professionals, regardless of their field, give off an air of confidence, knowledge, and authority.  As they should. …
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Daylight Practice Air Raid

April 23, 2014 · Collections ·

One of my favorite sources for historical content and context are diaries. Madeline L. Wells lived in Danielson, Connecticut, when she kept a diary that recently came into the collection here at CHS. She was about 22 in 1943 and kept a meticulous record of the major news stories of the day, all recorded in…
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What is this?

April 22, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our newest exhibit, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, showcases over 40 costumes form Hepburn’s illustrious film and stage career. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its background every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

A-Tisket, A-Tasket, a Green and Yellow Basket

In this photograph from the early twentieth century, two little girls in Hartford’s Mazzafera family are holding baskets of flowers. When I was cataloguing the photograph a couple of years ago, I described the baskets as “Easter baskets.” Maybe they are. The first mention I can find of “Easter baskets” in the Hartford Courant, however,…
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Thrall Hall

April 21, 2014 · Collections ·

On March 18, a few people from CHS had the opportunity to tour Thrall Hall, a square dance hall in East Windsor, Connecticut. Ed Thrall, described by the Hartford Courant as a “true Connecticut Yankee original,” visited demolition sites in and around Hartford in the 1960s and salvaged materials, which he then carted back to…
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Katharine Hepburn: Rebellious and Sporty

April 18, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Over the past couple of weeks while preparing for the opening of Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, I’ve been thinking a lot about Katharine Hepburn. One thing that I keep going back to is her parents – and how much they must have influenced her. Hepburn loved sports and was fiercely competitive. Her…
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America’s First “Brown Water” Navy

April 17, 2014 · Collections ·

This past weekend we offered a special Civil War-themed behind the scenes tour at CHS. I spent a day selecting a wide variety of objects, manuscripts and graphics items to include in the tour, including several that I had not used in the past. Among these was a pair of fine photographs of river gunboats…
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Right to your door

April 16, 2014 · Collections ·

You mean to tell me that at one time the postal service did not bring my mail directly to my house six days a week? How could that possibly be?

A Good Many Chestnut Trees About

April 15, 2014 · Collections ·

Before the chestnut flight devastated the forests in the early 1900s, American chestnut trees were a prominent feature in the Connecticut landscape. Chestnut trees grew tall and straight and the wood was used in the construction of barns and houses and the making of furniture, telephone poles, and railroad ties. The nuts were used as…
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Fancy Pants

April 14, 2014 · CHS Buzz, Exhibits ·

Pants running. Pants standing. Best of all, pants doing a handstand. Pants are a perfect symbol of Katharine Hepburn’s unconventional approach to fashion and her exceptional Hollywood career. Decades before mainstream American women would dare to wear pants to work, Hepburn wore jeans on the studio lot in the early 1930s. The story goes that…
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Being an Intern at CHS: Steve’s Story

April 11, 2014 · Education ·

“So that’s the broadsword John Brown’s son used in the raid at Harper’s Ferry? Are you kidding me??” ~A scene from my first day at CHS. From the moment I set foot inside the building, I knew I was in for a truly special experience working at CHS as an education intern. The behind the…
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Being an Intern at CHS: Sara’s Story

Our program at UConn requires all fifth-year Education Master’s students to participate in an internship. CHS is the only offered internship in the entire program that does not take place in a school. So when I found out I was assigned to CHS, I was excited about the chance to work in a museum and…
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