WINTER 2022-23, #3: CITIZEN HISTORIANS MAKE THEIR OWN HISTORY
Welcome to your free bi-weekly newsletter from Connecticut Explored with the latest stories, the newest Grating the Nutmeg podcast, programs and exhibitions from our partners to see/watch this month, and more! In this issue, we focus on Game-Changing projects and look back at some 2022 highlights.
Happy New Year from the Team at Connecticut Explored! And thank you for all your support as readers, listeners, and donors.
CT Explored is pleased to announce it has received support from a Partnership Grant from CT Humanities and new office space from Central Connecticut State University.
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Game Changer: Witness Stones Project
I first met Dennis Culliton in 2019 when I was giving a presentation, “Uncovering Black and Indigenous Histories,“ Encounters: A Forum For Public Discussion at the Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center. After my presentation he told me about his project, Witness Stones, and we discussed the ways in which our research into Connecticut’s colonial, revolutionary, and antebellum periods overlapped. The importance of Dennis’ work struck me immediately: teaching middle-school students how to read original documents from their own town so that they could learn about a hidden history—the history of enslavement in Connecticut—was undoubtedly a transformative educational event with local meaning. Students discovered where enslaved people lived and worked, and then they placed a stone with the person’s name near that spot or at a significant location in the person’s life. The witness stones are modeled on the German Stolpersteine, stones placed to remember the Jews taken away from their homes during the Holocaust. Clint Smith, the bestselling author of How the Word Is Passed, wrote an article in the Atlantic about the German memorials and recognized the work of The Witness Stones project, where he had this to say:
“A group of teachers and students in Connecticut began the Witness Stones Project….Ultimately it is those small, neighborhood-, community-, and city-based initiatives that make the most impact and have the most potential to change minds, to change hearts, to change our understanding of ourselves.”
United Methodist Church, Danbury, Witness Stones installation. Photo: Dennis Culliton.
A couple of years after our first meeting, Dennis moved The Witness Stones into the History Department suite at Central Connecticut State University, where I was then department chair, and where Connecticut Explored now also has its offices. His project has grown from being an assignment in his 8th grade class in Guilford, where he taught, to being a state-wide non-profit initiative embraced by multiple towns and school districts.
Read Dennis’ own story about founding The Witness Stones project in Connecticut Explored’s winter issue!
Grating the Nutmeg
Here’s some of the great Game Changer podcasts from 2022! If you didn’t get a chance to listen, start the new year out right! Each podcast has a survey that accompanies it. Let us know what you thought after listening!
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Monument to the Black Governors, Fall 2004
The story of Connecticut’s colonial-era Black leaders.
Unburying Hartford’s Native and African Family Histories
Not only Puritans were buried in Hartford’s first cemetery.
PODCAST: Uncovering African and Native American Lives in 17th & 18th Century Hartford
Searching for My James and Lane Families, Fall 2019
Journalist Liz Petry explores her family tree, with roots in slavery and branches that include a best-selling novelist and Connecticut’s first African American female pharmacist.
Nancy Toney’s Lifetime in Slavery, Winter 2012-2013
Nancy Toney of Windsor may have been the last enslaved person in Connecticut.
Programs and Exhibitions to Enjoy This Month and Ring in the New Year!
Seeing is Revealing: Nook Farm Then and Now, a walking tour of Stowe’s historic neighborhood. From an artistic and activist enclave to a contemporary dynamic Hartford neighborhood, the tour explores Nook Farm’s relationship to the history of residential development, urbanization, and preservation and the effects of each on racial and social injustices today. Seeing Is Revealing is offered as an in-person, guided experience every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The tour is also available as a downloadable self-guided audio experience. Seeing Is Revealing was developed through funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Register online at HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest Street, Hartford. 860-522-9258.
This family-friendly exhibition, on view until March 5, 2023, explores the rich history of pigments and dyes and their impact on art and culture. The story of color, and the search for ever more vibrant pigments, is a fascinating one, tying into biology and human evolution, alchemy, philosophy, chemistry, exploration and colonial exploitation, language and cultural meaning-making and artistic expression. Chromatopia features more than 30 objects drawn from the Lyman Allyn’s collection as well as from other museums and private lenders. Color inspires us, affects our mood, and shapes how we see the world. Chromatopia asks the question: color is all around us, but what do we really know about it?
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street, New London. 860-443-2545; lymanallyn.org
Just two more weeks! The Great Trains Holiday Show at the Wilton Historical Society returns this winter! Running through January 16, 2023, the show provides fun for the whole family with multiple model train layouts located in 18th- and 19th-century buildings decorated for the holidays. Displays include highly detailed miniature towns, tunnels, and bridges, along with interactive scenery with plenty of buttons to push! Knowledgeable “train engineers” will be on hand to talk trains with visitors. Check the Society’s website for additional holiday programming. The Great Train Holiday Show is open Wednesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Sundays noon – 4 p.m.. Admission for members is free; non-member kids $5; adults $10.
Wilton Historical Society, 224 Danbury Road, Wilton. wiltonhistorical.org; 203-762-7257
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