We are pleased to announce the recipients of CLHO's 2021 Awards of Merit for Projects and Individual Achievement. We honored the awardees at our virtual Annual Business Meeting and Awards of Merit Presentation on April 20. You can watch a video of the presentation on our YouTube channel. You may also download a PDF of the Awards of Merit Booklet.
Connecticut Democracy Center at Connecticut’s Old State House
For this annual March competition, thousands of students from across the state conduct historical research projects and present their learning in a variety of formats – research paper, exhibit, performance, documentary, or website. Half-way through the regional contest, Covid-19 struck, making the in-person state contest impossible. The event was quickly reimagined, pivoted online, and the 448 regional winners shared their work during a week in early May. This extended virtual event enabled even more people to present, judge, and cheer - a silver lining. A reviewer noted, “It is much more than a program…most important is the life-long love of exploration, the camaraderie, and…sharing that is developed by this one remarkable day.”
Connecticut Historical Society
This project was conceptualized to work toward a truer picture and more inclusive history of the suffrage movement in Connecticut. Despite restricted access to archives of historical organizations due to Covid-19 closures, extensive research was conducted beyond suffrage to issues of racism and segregation; and resulted in 25 biographies of women of color that are available at chs.org/WOCvotes. In partnership with five other history museums, six virtual presentations reached people from 41 towns throughout the state and expanded understanding about the marginalized roles of African American and Indigenous women who participated in the suffrage fight. The project team demonstrated an active role in educating the public on how to research under-documented lives and history
Connecticut State Library
This project received a 2021 AASLH Leadership in History Award
Fifteen high school students from around the state lived and worked with sixteen French students in Seicheprey - the site of the first clash in France involving American troops - to restore a trench section once occupied by Connecticut soldiers. To prepare for the 2019 three-week trip, students researched a soldier from their community who was at this battle; they also learned the Great War’s history, French customs, and engaged with soldiers’ descendants. After returning, students shared their research and experiences at numerous venues culminating with a Veterans Day event at the State Armory. This immersive, hands-on approach to history is an exemplary program demonstrating history’s unifying power and capacity to intersect and impact lives today.
East Haddam Historical Society and Museum
In collaboration with the East Haddam Land Trust, an exhibit and four short documentaries were produced about three preserves containing remains of mills that played a vital role in the town’s past. The ruins of crumbling stone dams, sluiceways, foundations, rusted turbines, and waterworks were captured in these films, which also included interviews, photos, and documents from the Society’s collection. Posting the films on YouTube increased reach beyond expectations, and encouraged hiking in the woods and enjoying the natural environment as a safe activity during the pandemic. This impressive partnership demonstrates how limited resources can be maximized by sharing a common vision and purpose.
Essex Historical Society
The importance of Falls River in Centerbrook, Essex’s most overlooked village, was examined in collaboration with Essex Land Trust. When the pandemic shut down public gatherings, plans refocused to two online offerings. A digital magazine was produced with services donated by a local marketing firm that explored geography, industry and commerce, transportation, and social history, from Native American presence to today; and resulted in this village’s first comprehensive history. Working with a pro bono architectural firm, a virtual flyover video was created using augmented reality depicting Centerbrook in 1910, based on research and images from the Society’s collections. This project demonstrates a unique and immersive interpretation of the area’s changing landscape as an exemplary model for cooperative efforts.
Greenwich Historical Society
The First Congregational Church and Ecclesiastical Society of Woodbury, Connecticut
The First Congregational Church of Woodbury, Connecticut: 350 Years of Faith, Fellowship, and Service
This comprehensive history was published to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the church’s founding. The authors’ diligent inquiry into a trove of unused records documents the church as the founding body of Woodbury, and examined the church as an exemplar of the changing theologies and culture through the centuries for communities across the state. The book is organized thematically to reflect this vibrant community anchor’s response to local, regional, and national events and values, and to significant trends in society. While the church’s future is uncertain, this solid work is a requiem for a venerable institution. It provides an important contribution to the understanding of Connecticut history and will serve as a valuable resource for future historians.
Hartford History Center
Voter registration cards offered a unique window on women’s experiences as newly-eligible voters in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment. Original research pieced together stories of the racial and cultural diversity among the 15,000+ Hartford women who registered, thus adding a new understanding of women of color and immigrant women in early 20thcentury Connecticut, and the high value most women placed on claiming and exercising their electoral voices. Addressing pandemic challenges, a virtual exhibit was launched enabling viewers to visit repeatedly and discover new information through layers of resources. These seemingly mundane primary sources, accessible at ctdigitalarchive.org, cast a different perspective on the suffrage centennial, connecting it to current voting issues that encouraged civic participation in 2020 and beyond.
Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center
This project received a 2021 AASLH Leadership in History Award
Based on a play of the same name, this program confronted “hard” history head-on using Keeler Tavern’s stories to illustrate national events. It explored the lives of a white woman and a free woman of color raised as “sisters” who ran the Resseguie Hotel, today’s museum site, during the mid 19th century. Respecting Covid restrictions, one performance to a small, socially-distanced audience was live-streamed and recorded for future viewing. A virtual talkback was conducted with play members and launched Let’s Talk Hard History! Combining history and theatre harnessed the power of humanities to address difficult history around race, gender, privilege, and enslavement, while connecting the play to online school and public programs for engagement in historical inquiry and critical thinking.
Madison Historical Society
Filmed as the crisis unfolded during the statewide shutdown, this documentary captured history as it was happening. Like communities across the country, Madison saw closures of businesses and schools, shortages in grocery stores, restrictions on daily life, and the illness and deaths of beloved members of the community. This film is a time capsule of personal stories, thoughts, and the raw emotions of coping and persevering as people were experiencing the pandemic, adapting to working and learning remotely, sheltering in place, and practicing social-distancing. Working with professional film makers, it documented vivid reality beyond the more typical collecting efforts of local museums. It is a poignant and valuable record and resource of how one Connecticut town was impacted, and how it responded to the historic global pandemic.
New Haven Museum
The post-industrial history of the former New Haven Clock Company was brought to life in this exhibition illustrating how its manufacturing heyday was followed by an artistic afterlife of reinventions in the ruins - a succession of visual and performance artists, punk bands, skateboarders, and nightclubs. The building’s massive scale was innovatively portrayed within the galleries featuring architectural salvage, film clips, and also ephemera contributed by former occupants, artists, and employees. After a second closure due to a spike in Covid cases, the museum persevered, shifted content online, and launched “FACTORY Weekly” videos showcasing exhibit sections. A changing city was explored through the lens of a single building, bridging architecture, art, culture, and urban history; and documented often-overlooked Connecticut history.
Salmon Brook Historical Society
In recognition of the Society’s 75thAnniversary, this project was envisioned to provide an outside activity conducive to social distancing during the pandemic. This self-guided walking tour of 44 historic homes and buildings along Granby’s main street created a month-long opportunity for the community to explore its history. Incorporating technology in the tour, signs at each property had a QR code for “strollers” to access information by phone, and customize their experience from basic historical information about This House to A Bit More, and for those with still more curiosity Even More. This low cost, high impact program is a template for increasing community and online engagement in fun and meaningful ways to learn about local history.
Sharon Historical Society and Museum
This multi-site exhibition with accompanying twelve-page guide was a collaboration between three Sharon organizations that showcased the artwork, life, and legacy of 19th-century artist and naturalist John Jay Audubon. The Tremaine Gallery at the Hotchkiss School displayed the artist’s hand-colored prints; the Sharon Historical Society display explored his career and working methods; while the Sharon Audubon Center held lectures, field walks, workshops, tours, and children’s activities. This exhibition initiated and emphasized cooperation and cross-programming among Sharon’s cultural and educational institutions, and had the good fortune to be fully enjoyed in-person before Covid struck. It brought together environmental and natural history to tell the national story of conservation alongside the history of a local organization.
Warren Historical Society
As a unique document of Warren’s history from 1755 to the present, this cemetery was photographed and mapped using a drone. Grave markers were then individually photographed and matched with the map, identifying them using past records compiled and the work of the 1930s Works Progress Administration. Pandemic challenges provided an opportunity for this digitization project that could be completed safely; it resulted in the map and data being available online as a finding aid for specific burials, while also preserving the vital inscriptions rapidly wearing away. The partnership with the Housatonic Valley Association and young history enthusiasts demonstrates how the power of cooperation combined with new technologies makes meaningful resources available to a broad online audience.
Weston Historical Society
Westport Public Library
Illustrating how Westport women engaged in the Votes for Women campaign, this exhibition paid tribute to over 50 local suffragists. Designed as a component of WestportREADS 2019-2020 Our Vote, Our Future centennial celebration of the 19th amendment’s ratification, it explored issues of voting rights to the present day. A week after the opening, the exhibit closed due to the pandemic restrictions on public gatherings. Undeterred, like the suffragists highlighted, the project team created a virtual exhibit; and lectures became articles and virtual programs. Through these online experiences, visitors engaged with topics of citizens’ rights and responsibilities, equality, and social justice that resonate today. As the Library’s first foray into historical interpretation, it is an impressive contribution to women’s and local history.
Wilton Historical Society
This exhibition commemorated the passage of the 19thAmendment showcasing two Wilton women instrumental in fighting for women’s right to vote. Plans shifted to create a digital exhibit with the sudden Covid-19 closure. Working with a researcher, videographer, and actress, seven videos and ten essays featured striking artifacts, costumes, ephemera, poignant family stories and photos, punctuated with narration and period music. As part of the Society’s History is Here initiative, the local movement was tied to the national one, addressing grassroots action, symbolism in clothing, and also some women’s opposition and internal racism as countercurrents. The result is a valuable contribution in exploring and honoring the suffrage movement as a culmination of efforts by local communities throughout the country.
Charles T. Lyle
Throughout a distinguished career spanning fifty years, Mr. Lyle has led six historical organizations with vision and commitment to elevating these institutions and advancing public history. During his fourteen-year tenure as Executive Director of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, Charles managed the restoration of its three historic houses and privies, and spearheaded the design and fundraising to build the new Education and Visitor Center. His leadership transformed the museum into a welcoming, thriving, and innovative center of historical learning to become the first Colonial Dames property in the country to receive AAM accreditation. By leading this museum to new levels of programming, community engagement, financial health, preservation excellence, and prominence in the public history field, he has profoundly influenced the Connecticut history community.
Myron O. Stachiw
For more than 45 years, Connecticut native Myron Stachiw has been a strong advocate for historic preservation and local history in multiple capacities: as a museum professional, adjunct professor, archeologist, consultant, and historian. A gifted scholar-educator-consultant, Myron is a sought-after architectural historian with an extraordinary ability to “read” a building; his meticulous research and keen insights often lead to transformative interpretations of historic structures. He has worked on architectural investigations for a lengthy list of organizations, including: Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. House; Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center; Stanton-Davis Homestead; Mark Twain House; Governor Samuel Huntington Trust; and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. His devoted service on national and state boards includes Vernacular Architecture Forum, CT Humanities, Preservation CT, and numerous organizations in his town of Woodstock. Myron’s endless curiosity and infectious passion for history, archaeology, and preservation have had a profound impact on deepening the understanding of Connecticut history.