“I have no connection and it’s all your fault! Museum visitors hate me! I promise them touch-screen interaction and delightful videos, and they feel nothing but annoyance and resentment. Why don’t you love me?”
First, let me explain the purpose of the iPad in the exhibit. Then I’ll get into deflecting the blame for its failure onto someone else. Continue reading →
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 improved cameras and platforms have developed. In fact, recently, privately owned camera-equipped drones have been involved in two incidents in Connecticut: a potentially dangerous fire at a Branford quarry, and a fatal automobile accident in the Hartford area. Whether or not such remote surveillance poses a threat to personal freedom is a question open to debate I suppose.
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 how people HATE using microfilm. By digitizing the film we make the collections more available both here and on the web. The goal is to add the scanned collections to Connecticut History Online.Continue reading →
Maples, Litchfield Road, Norfolk, Connecticut. Photograph by Marie Kendall, 1898. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1981.58.6
Winter isn’t over yet. Historically, some of the worst winter storms have happened between the end of February and the end of March. The Blizzard of 1888 took place March 11-14th. The Great Ice Storm of 1898 took place on February 20-22nd. Looking at pictures of these historic storms reminds us that giant piles of snow and ice-shattered trees have been regular features of winter in New England. People didn’t have it quite so bad in the old days, however. Everyone in the late nineteenth century had fireplaces, wood stoves, and/or coal furnaces. Few people had electricity, especially in rural areas. Light was provided by kerosene, candles, or gas. Though suburbanization was beginning to affect some of the larger cities, few people commuted very far to work in northwest Connecticut, where the Ice Storm hit hardest. Grocery shopping was not the almost daily activity that it is today, and most families would have had well-stocked pantries, including foods that they had processed themselves. Many families would have had their own chickens or cows. Deep snow and ice posed dangers and hardships, of course, but our ancestors were used to a hard life. A great blizzard or ice storm was an opportunity for families to spend time together indoors, gathered around the fireplace. I’ve always thought that many of the people in the pictures of the Blizzard of 1888 look like they are having a very good time. Marie Kendall recorded the beauty as well as the devastation wrought by the Great Ice Storm. Our reliance on technology and modern conveniences has made us far more vulnerable to nature’s extremes than our ancestors were.
Toys have been around for as long as parents needed a way to distract and entertain their kids. From the bone toys of the Native Americans, to the wooden toys of the Colonists, to the action figures of today; their meanings have not changed, just the complexity, maybe. Continue reading →
The top of the Hartford-Aetna Bank Building on the left. Richard Welling. 2012.284.86
Of the many buildings that Hartford has lost to development since the mid-twentieth century, the one that seems to sting a little bit more than most of the others is the Hartford-Aetna Bank Building. When it was built in 1912, the 11-story building was Hartford’s tallest. In 1990, the building was slated for demolition by the Society of Savings, with a 45-story office tower to go up in its wake. Continue reading →
Last week I had the kind of day that I simply adore! They come around rarely, but when they do, I enjoy them so immensely. It was last Thursday and Lynne Bassett came to research in our collection for a very special presentation / program she is involved with here at CHS. And that meant we spent an entire day pulling out quilts, costumes, fabric fragments, incomplete quilt blocks, textile sample books, and everything else we could think of that might help in her program…
Wholecloth Quilt. 1750-1775. Gift of Mrs. Sophia Burdick. 1963.11.17.
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? Continue reading →
Fifty years before I was born, children of the Cheney family enjoyed sledding on the Great Lawn in Manchester. My grandparents and great grandparents worked in the Cheney silk mills. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1988.133.73
When I found Drive A on a map last summer, when we were in the middle of our map project, “Finding Your Place in Connecticut History,” I knew that I had found my place. There it was on a map of Greater Hartford from the 1950s: Drive A in the housing complex known as Silver Lane Homes in Manchester. Like most of the streets in Silver Lane Homes, Drive A ran steeply downhill. Our house was located near the top of the hill; there was a big pine tree near the bottom and right after that the street curved sharply to the left. I’d forgotten about that, but the map showed it plainly. The houses were flimsy things, built for workers at Pratt & Whitney during World War II. I lived there until I was eight years old. When the houses were torn down, I moved only a block away, and the abandoned streets were fantastic places to go sledding in the winter, smooth and straight (except for that big curve) and no cars. We ran races and set up obstacle courses, jumping our sleds over hillocks and maneuvering around and under trees. My sled was a Flexible Flier, one of the fastest and best. We never complained about the snow in those days. Those wartime housing complexes don’t appear on many maps. We don’t have any pictures of them in the graphics collection at the Connecticut Historical Society (how I wish we did). Finding Drive A on a map was a special experience for me that brought back a special period in my childhood. Funny how a map can do that.