About Rich

Richard C. Malley is the Head of Collections & Research at CHS. A maritime historian by background he previously served on the curatorial staffs of Mystic Seaport and The Mariners’ Museum in Virginia. He oversees research and collections functions at CHS.

A 19th Century Eye in the Sky

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.

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What in the “World”?

Sometimes the genesis of a blog is a current news story that has obvious historical parallels. Then again, a recent acquisition can certainly get my creative juices flowing. But once in a while I just like to slowly walk through collections storage, drawing inspiration from the many fabulous objects that help us connect to our past. Continue reading

Trade with China, Nineteenth Century Style

This portrait of Capt. Lemuel White was painted in Canton by the Chinese artist Fouqua (Foeiqua) sometime before 1815. CHS 1924.2.0

This portrait of Capt. Lemuel White was painted in Canton by the Chinese artist Fouqua (Foeiqua) sometime before 1815. CHS 1924.2.0

As China has emerged in the past decade as one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, it makes sense to think about how China and the U.S. engaged in commercial activities two centuries ago. By the late 18th century western European powers were cementing commercial relationships with the reclusive Chinese empire. The newly independent United States was likewise interested in what they saw as a nearly limitless market for manufactured goods and special in-demand products. As today, the developing trade was carried on almost exclusively by sea, but instead of large container-ships, European and American sailing vessels of all types plied the routes between China and ports on both sides of the Atlantic. Continue reading

More Than One Man’s Story

As a museum curator I am of course interested in the big picture, the sweep of events that bear on us all to one extent or the other. But the stories of individuals also have an undeniable lure, because sometimes in the story of one person we can better understand some of the larger forces at work. Continue reading

Memories Come Flooding Back

Recently the Hartford Courant has begun publishing a series of articles focusing on memorable events in Connecticut’s history since the newspaper’s founding 250 years ago. And let’s face it, there have been plenty of significant events to cover. Staff writer Jim Shea, better known for his humor column, tackled the story of flooding in Connecticut in a front page article, “Wild Waters”, in this past Sunday’s issue. Among the wet and wild events covered was the great August 1955 flood, the result of back-to-back hurricanes.

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Some Holiday Sparkle

Christmas OrnamentThe end of the year and with it the approaching holidays always get me to thinking about the past twelve months. Sort of a time for personal reflection, thoughts of things that went great and those that didn’t. I guess it all boils down to memory, which is our link between the present and the past.

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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Drone!

So were you as amazed or mystified (or vaguely uneasy) as I was when Amazon announced their development plans for Prime Air, an airborne drone delivery system? Whether you think it is feasible or not you have to admit the concept really smacks of 1950s science fiction from the hands of such masters as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, or Robert Heinlein. Yet the video of a prototype shown on “60 Minutes” was cool in a very real way.

In any event, the topic has certainly resonated here at CHS, as my colleague Jenny Steadman recently posted a blog, G. Fox Was Way Ahead of Amazon, while I was writing this post! So I thought, why not continue the conversation a bit longer?

A “swarm” of G. Fox & Co. helicopters lands in Bushnell Park, Hartford. CHS 2002.45.14

A “swarm” of G. Fox & Co. helicopters lands in Bushnell Park, Hartford. CHS 2002.45.14

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“Hey, you turkey!” and Other Random Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving pstcd 1002If anyone is reading this, chances are you are still sleepily digesting the remains of Thanksgiving dinner*—or perhaps you are in line waiting for stores to open their doors this evening…  In any event, Thanksgiving, one of the major national holidays, is upon us once again. Based on travel statistics this holiday sees more people on the go than any other. Going where? Why, home, of course!! Maybe it’s just me (and I don’t think it is) but people seek out the face-to-face comforts of home and family—and friends–even in this seemingly always-connected world. Don’t believe me? Try to find a seat on an airplane or train in the days leading up to the fourth Thursday in November. Continue reading

An Over-Sixty Looks at Veteran’s Day

You know you’re getting old when the faces at Veteran’s Day events look more and more like yourself and less and less like your parents. Obviously it’s the natural course of things, and yet there is an unmistakable poignancy in it all. As we bid adieu to the World War II generation I can imagine what my grandparents felt when only a handful of Civil War vets remained alive, fragile souls riding in flashy automobiles in parades of the 1930s. Continue reading

Of fiery steeds…and lunatics

As a regular rider on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail I have opportunity to pass many different types of bicycles—high tech racers, mountains, recumbents (are they really that comfortable?), hybrids, even tricycles. Occasionally my musings turn to pioneering bicycle styles, such as the high-wheeler or “ordinary” as it were called. How did they ever ride those? Of course, an even earlier type of bicycle was the “velocipede,” a two-wheeled cycle developed in France in the mid-1860s. Due to their rough, unforgiving ride these cycles were aptly nicknamed “boneshakers.” When such bicycles first appeared in the U.S. following the Civil War, some folks tried to duplicate them… Continue reading