Hartford, Conn.– If you grew up in Connecticut, you probably remember going to a Whaler’s hockey game, or playing early video games, or wearing over-the-shoes roller skates, or perhaps even going to a one-room schoolhouse. Childhood experiences create shared memories that help define each generation – which now have been collected and are on display as part of a new, interactive exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society called “Growing Up in Connecticut,” running May 24 – October 15, 2016.
For the past year, the CHS has been talking with current and former residents in person and online about their experiences growing up in the states. Museum staff has traveled throughout the state collecting stories, toys, games, clothing, hairstyling products, sports and music memorabilia and other objects that helped define different eras over the years. Now, the museum “transports” visitors back to their childhoods – whether that was 20 years ago or 70 years ago – to view original objects and photos, hear and read personal stories, watch videos, and even contribute their own experiences.
Materials in the exhibit represent the Silent Generation (people born 1928-1945), the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980) and Millennials (1981-1996). Highlights include a ColecoVision gaming system (that is set up for use by visitors in a wood-paneled “basement hangout” with a beanbag chair), a waitress uniform from Friendly (now Friendly’s Ice Cream), toys and games, yearbook pictures, and sports memorabilia. Many short videos, which are shown on iPads throughout the exhibit, feature clips of people telling personal stories about growing up in Connecticut as well as montages on baseball, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, 9/11, and other relevant topics.
“It is interesting that we often think museums are meant to preserve historical objects and teach us about events that happened centuries ago,” said Jody Blankenship, CEO of the CHS. “However, museums should also act to preserve more current history including the images, items and stories from our lifetimes. In doing so, we can tell a more complete story, gain a better understanding of the people who make up our state, and fully appreciate our true diversity.”
Visitors have the chance to add their own stories at designated areas within the museum, and anyone can submit stories and/or photos online at https://chs.org/growingup. This website already features photos that can be clicked on for details or personal stories from each owner. Photos include chocolate moulds from Thompsons Chocolates from the 1920s, books from the 1940s, over-the-shoes roller skates from the 1950s, a Friendly waitress uniform from the 1960s, tobacco fields from the 1970s, a Hartford Whaler’s tee-shirt from the 1980s, and a Tamagotchi toy from the 1990s.
Major funding for “Growing Up in Connecticut” came from Connecticut Humanities, the Seabury and Seabury at Home, Hartford Steam Boiler, Thompson Chocolate and Ellen M. Brown.
The exhibit is free for CHS members and children 5 and under, and is included in general admission to the CHS museum and library ($8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for youth 6-17). The Connecticut Historical Society, located at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford, is open Tuesday–Thursday, 12–5 p.m., and Friday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Free parking is available.
The Connecticut Historical Society (www.CHS.org) is a private, not-for-profit educational organization that includes a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center. Founded in 1825, the CHS is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. The CHS works to connect visitors to the story of Connecticut, and to help create a society that values historical perspective and understanding as essential tools in shaping communities, and making informed decisions. To accomplish that, the CHS has collected more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials related to Connecticut’s social, cultural, and family history – which are available to the public onsite at Elizabeth Street in Hartford, off-site at other locations, and online.