Adventures in Exhibits

I just received a few emails from people congratulating me on LinkedIn for my fifth year work anniversary. That was news to me! I started in the summer of ’09 as the Interpretive Projects Assistant and had a lot of memories working at CHS since. So of my favorite adventures in exhibits…



When I had to ask the deli at Stop N Shop if they can shrink wrap a fake piece of raw steak. Then I felt even weirder when they did it without missing a beat like they’ve done it before. (I have to explain—this “steak” now lives in the refrigerator in our 1980s kitchen in Making Connecticut.)

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Creating Participatory Exhibitions; Our Try It! Gallery

Try It GalleryWith all of the warranted hoopla surrounding our blockbuster exhibition, Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, it’s easy to overlook other exhibitions at the Connecticut Historical Society. One exhibition that’s interactive and fun for all ages is Try It! Connecticut Places, People, Collections, & Me.

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Goodwin College and the Connecticut River

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 idea of filling some of the library’s empty (dry)wall space with historic images that show how the river was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s, providing a link between today’s campus and the area’s past. Searching through our graphics collection, I found about a dozen images and worked with folks at Goodwin to narrow the images down to four.

It’s always gratifying to work with other organizations, helping them make use of the CHS’s collections to connect Connecticut’s history with the work and activities of today. Check out the images below to see the final installation and more info about the photographs.

Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society

No Connection

chs_no-connection.jpgLately 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 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

Punctuate This

I just finished reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. These two quotes might well sum up the thought and feeling of the book:

 “Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking.”                                     

“The big final rule for the comma is one that you won’t find in any books by grammarians. It is quite easy to remember, however. The rule is: don’t use commas like a stupid person. I mean it.” Continue reading

Two by Two, Hands of Blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApologies for the obscure sci-fi reference, but every time I don the blue conservation gloves to protect an artifact from my oily, greasy, sweaty, human hands, my immediate thought is River Tam’s creepy chant, “Two by two, hands of blue,” in the underappreciated Firefly series. If you happened to catch me in the galleries this week installing a 19th-century tin coffeepot in the “Making Connecticut” exhibit, why, yes, I was contemplating melting your brain with a hand-held sonic-wave killing device. Continue reading

Movember 1st at the CHS

Movember begins today. Support your mustachioed buddies as the next 30 days reveal their ability to grow a thick and bushy upper-lip bear rug; a whispery mouth spider web; or something in between. All to promote men’s health and combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges. Continue reading

Winter’s Comin’

Our newest exhibit, “Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers”, will be open October 11, 2013 – March 29, 2014. That’s next week! You’ve got 5 months to check it out, but please tell me why you would wait. You might think you have time to roll in some lazy Saturday afternoon in the hazy near-future, but have you already forgotten the snow-mountain blizzard of February 2013? The tree-attack ice storm of October 2011? This is New England, people. It’s October. Get out while you can. (And I don’t mean move to Arizona. Or maybe I do.)

These three Connecticut women knew photography and they knew storms. Marie Kendall and Harriet Thorne hauled heavy tripods and viewfinders before you had a cell phone. Rosalie McKenna developed film before you could annoy your friends with social media. They came from different times and different places, but like all of us hardy (resigned) New England folk, when the snow started flyin’ they strapped on their boots and started snappin’.

Blizzard of February 2013, Bristol, Connecticut. Photograph by a five-year old female photographer from the top of a snow mountain created by an ineffective, rusty old snow blower that almost ran over her dad.

Blizzard of February 2013, Bristol, Connecticut. Photograph by a five-year old female photographer from the top of a snow mountain created by an ineffective, rusty old snow blower that almost ran over her dad.

Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society

Elementary Sentimentality

I’m not in an appropriate emotional state to be talking about our current exhibit development, which could include a discussion of the history of photography, the aesthetics of Victorian portraiture, or the historical change in social norms regarding the role of women in domestic and/or professional circles—all fascinating topics to be explored in “Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers,” opening on October 11, 2013. Continue reading