Inside the CHS

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One of my favorite sources for historical content and context are diaries.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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Hepburn Comes Home

April 10, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

The anticipation has been building for weeks.  All of us here at CHS have been excited to bring Katharine Hepburn home to Hartford in the form of an exhibition on loan from the Kent State University Museum called “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen.”  Well…on Thursday of last week she finally arrived and the…
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Just part of the job

April 9, 2014 · Collections ·

Collecting history can sometimes be uncomfortable and it is often hard to retain objectivity. Such was the case with two recent acquisitions—a broadside advertising a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in Woodstock in 1926, and two protest posters from this past Saturday’s rally to repeal Connecticut’s gun laws.

What is this?

April 8, 2014 · Collections, Exhibits ·

Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more,

On the Road with Richard Welling: Discovering Historic Connecticut Houses

In 1976, in conjunction with the nation’s Bicentennial celebration, Richard Welling produced a slim volume featuring twenty of Connecticut’s most historic houses. From late 1975 through the early spring of 1976, Welling was on the road, crisscrossing the state, sketching buildings that ranged in date from Colonial times through the Victorian era. The book came…
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Keeping Track of History

April 7, 2014 · CHS Buzz, Education ·

In the next few weeks I will be teaching a great deal of programs about immigration. The museum and outreach program focus on the stories of the people who have left their homes looking for a better, or different, life here in Connecticut. Being the son of an immigrant, the program has special meaning for me, and…
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Goodwin College and the Connecticut River

April 4, 2014 · Exhibits ·

I just finished a project over at Goodwin College in East Hartford: installing 4 large historic photographs of the Connecticut River in the school’s new library. Goodwin’s campus is located along the Connecticut River, and the Hoffman Family Library offers impressive views with its floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the riverfront. Goodwin approached us with the…
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Beware the Bottle!

April 3, 2014 · Collections ·

Much attention is focused these days on the costs of addiction, to drugs and alcohol in particular, here in America. The Partnership for a Drug Free America is one well-known effort, while “Drink Responsibly” is the motto of a liquor industry campaign. While the specifics of these current public education efforts may vary, they rest…
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Hawaii Once Again

April 2, 2014 · Collections ·

One of these days, I will have to go to Hawaii because I keep coming back to it in my research and blog posts. Now I am going to be talking to a college class about Connecticut missionaries in Hawaii. In addition, next week is filled with Hawaii-related programs at Central Connecticut State University(CCSU) and…
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But What Does it Have to do with Connecticut?

April 1, 2014 · Collections ·

What’s this eighteenth-century print showing dancers on an island in the South Seas doing at the Connecticut Historical Society?   Actually, there are two good reasons for its presence.  One of the three men seated in the center of front row is probably John Ledyard, a young man from Groton, Connecticut, who sailed with the British…
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Playing the Teaching Game

March 31, 2014 · Education ·

I teach by day and work with toys by night. If that opening did not give you a hint, yes I am a comic book fan. I’m always trying to figure out a way to bring that out in my teaching, whether is setting up my desk at work with fun action figures, or trying…
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The Last Wolf in Connecticut

March 28, 2014 · Collections ·

I drove into work this morning behind a car with a bumper sticker for the West Hartford Wolves, a youth hockey team. Today we think of wolves and tough and brave, as noble symbols of wildness and of the wilderness. We now view wilderness itself as something rather rare and precious, good for the human…
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Underneath It All

March 27, 2014 · Collections ·

Even if you are not a fashion historian, you have likely seen images of the clothing people wore in the past.  Whether you saw them online, or in your own family photos, the outer garments of individuals are fairly visible.  But what about what lies underneath?  What does that look like???

Do we ever learn from history?

March 26, 2014 · Collections ·

I am continually amazed by how history repeats itself, and not always for the better. We recently acquired a set of diaries kept by a young Waterbury man just prior to and during his study to become a doctor. James A. Root, Jr. was between college and medical school when he finally decided to keep…
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Men at Work

March 25, 2014 · Collections ·

Richard Welling was known as the “Artist in a Hard Hat” because he spent so much time at construction sites. He spent so much time drawing the World Trade Center when it was first going up in Manhattan that the Port Authority issued him a pass to the site—and his own hard hat. Welling was…
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Paul Robeson: Baritone, Activist and Renaissance Man

March 24, 2014 · Collections ·

Although Paul Robeson was born in New Jersey, for twelve years he made Enfield, Connecticut his home. The baritone and radio singer was best known for his title role in “Othello” in the 1930s and 1940s, which he portrayed in various venues between London and New York. Robeson performed in numerous American plays and Hollywood…
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Nooks of CHS

March 21, 2014 · Collections ·

The Connecticut Historical Society is housed in a unique building. The building is a mansion erected in 1928 by inventor Curtis Veeder. Veeder lived in the house with his family until they sold it to CHS in 1950. The building went over a few renovations and additions, including converting the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms into…
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A Connecticut “Monuments Man”

March 20, 2014 · Collections ·

Over the past year there has been any number of news accounts concerning artwork apparently seized by the Nazis during their occupation of Europe in World War II. Adolph Hitler and Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering were particularly rapacious in this regard. Recently a large collection of paintings and other works believed to have been taken during…
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A behind the scenes tour

March 19, 2014 · Collections ·

On Tuesday a number of CHS staff had a cook’s tour of the archives of The Hartford, one of Connecticut’s premier insurance companies. I never realized that behind the imposing main building that is on Asylum Street, there is an entire campus of buildings and facilities.

Looking at the Backs of Things

March 18, 2014 · Collections ·

Curators and catalogers spend quite a bit of time looking at the backs and bottoms of things, trying to glean information about pictures and objects.  Labels on the back of the frame of an oil painting may tell where and when it was exhibited or purchased.  Marks on prints and drawings may prove clues to…
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Connecticut’s Modern Women Photographers and Their Fine Art Processes

March 17, 2014 · Education, Exhibits ·

On March 29, the temporary exhibition Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers will be wrapping up, which means that the various events and presentations and tours that I’ve been doing are also just about over.

Welcome Home Schoolers!

March 14, 2014 · Education ·

In 2013 the CHS served over 17,000 school kids and teachers. The school audience makes up a big chunk of the overall audience of the CHS both here at the museum and around the state when our museum educators travel to school for classroom outreach programs. Up to this point, most of the school and…
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If only…

March 13, 2014 · Collections ·

I love when individuals leave a record that is undeniably useful…if only everyone did…

Pesky research questions

March 12, 2014 · Collections ·

Don’t get me wrong, I love trying to help researchers find the “right” answer. But why do I always find the answer days or even weeks after the question was asked? Several weeks ago now, I had a woman here doing background research for a novel she is writing. Among other things, she asked me…
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What is this?

March 11, 2014 · Collections ·

Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?

Seeking Asylum

What nationally famous Connecticut institution was once located near the junction of Farmington Avenue and Asylum Avenue? How many people notice the statue that stands in the little wedge-shaped green park at this busy intersection, and how many people know what it commemorates? In 1817, one of the first schools for the deaf was erected…
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Quiltmakers at Work, or Hey, There’s a Menagerie on my Petticoat

March 10, 2014 · CHS Buzz ·

A mermaid, a lion, a griffin (or is it a leopard?), a fish, two stags, three rabbits, three different birds and what might be a dog. That’s the list of intricately stitched figures found around the border of Sarah Halsey’s amazing quilted petticoat.

No Connection

March 7, 2014 · Exhibits ·

Lately when I walk through our current exhibit, Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers, the smart little iPad mounted on the gallery wall has been staring back at me with three heart-rending words: “No Internet Connection.” Is that a cry for help? “I need you!” Or an accusation? “I have no connection and…
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A 19th Century Eye in the Sky

March 6, 2014 · Collections ·

Privacy issues have come to the fore in recent years as technology has enabled prying on all facets of everyday life. Even Google’s camera-equipped cars that drive slowly through neighborhoods capturing street views have raised some concerns. Aerial photography and surveillance, once primarily the purview of military and intelligence forces, has become an issue as…
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Getting collections online

March 5, 2014 · Collections ·

Hurray! We just received our official award letter from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the granting arm of the National Archives. This $35,000 grant is going to fund the digitization of eleven manuscripts collections that have already been microfilmed. Microfilm is still the best option for preserving manuscript collections, but we all know…
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