2020 Awards of Merit Recipients


Christina Volpe and Mattatuck Museum

The History of Rose Hill

This educational program presented a detailed interpretation of Waterbury history through stories of three prominent manufacturing families who resided at Rose Hill, the c. 1852 Gothic Revival house built by brass, from the 1850s to the 1970s. Thoughtful research using the museum’s collections uncovered letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, and objects, which were brought to life in exhibit panels and a popular illustrated lecture series in the setting of Rose Hill. By connecting themes of industry, women’s history, immigration, and historic preservation, this program explored the vital economic and cultural role this house has played in the city’s history.


Ancient Burying Ground Association, Inc.

Uncovering Their History: African, African American, and Native American Burials in Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground, 1640 – 1815

This research project and resulting website and database provide profiles that act as “virtual headstones” for 500 individuals interred in this Hartford cemetery. Easy to navigate and downloadable, it is a valuable tool for researchers, and will include a platform for names to be added to the database. An excellent example of a digital humanities project, https://africannativeburialsct.org/ demonstrates what good historical research can achieve to illuminate aspects of the past that have been hidden or unexplored. The recovery of this important history deepens understanding of the site, early Hartford, and Native Americans, Africans, and African Americans in this region, and is an outstanding model for cemeteries around the state.

Colchester Historical Society

Emerging from the Shadows: Colchester's School For Colored Children, 1803-1840

Recipient of the 2020 AASLH Leadership in History Award

Prompted by construction of a replica of this school in 2016, the almost forgotten one-room schoolhouse that operated in Colchester was explored in this thoughtful exhibition. Using considerable supportive documentation, the little-known story of formal education for African-American children in early 19th-century Connecticut was brought to light. This comprehensive project incorporated the story of an underrepresented population in the town’s history. It developed a picture of the school, its teachers and pupils, and contextualized the story within the larger struggles for access to education and civil rights.

Florence Griswold Museum

Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art

Continuing the tradition of Florence Griswold herself, who welcomed artists to her boarding house, this groundbreaking exhibition embraced the talents of contemporary artists to engage visitors with natural history and the museum’s Connecticut landscape. Interweaving the historic with the contemporary enticed contemplation of the continuing thread of how American artists have considered the natural world, as well as humans’ significant impact on the environment. The reimagining of Miss Griswold’s home radically reshaped how a historic interior can be experienced by museum visitors through the lens of contemporary art, and serves as an inspiration for other house museums to explore innovative ways to engage visitors.

Gunn Historical Museum

Washington, Connecticut: An American Story

Recipient of the 2020 AASLH Leadership in History Award

This community-curated exhibition, thoughtfully executed and beautifully designed through a three-year planning and research process, traced millennia of Washington’s history while incorporating it within the confines of an 18th century house. Donations of artifacts, photographs, and documents resulted from the “Help Us Plan” pre-exhibit. With so much content, an expandable digital exhibit layer was created using several touch screens. A Washington History curriculum was also developed for the schools. Demonstrating the power of history as a catalyst for civic engagement, it serves as an exemplary model for other organizations to involve their communities in meaningful ways.

George Jacobi and UConn Archives and Special Collections

Dayglo and Napalm

This exhibition captured the radicalism and activism of UConn students during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Personal essays from outreach to alumni vividly expressed the sentiments students were grappling with during this period of Vietnam War-generated unrest. Materials from the archival collections of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center illuminated perspectives of this war throughout the campus and town. Both the exhibition and programming revealed strong connections between that era and present-day issues. This project brought together alumni and current students, and created an intergenerational bridge highlighting a moment of national significance through a local story.

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

From Corsets to Suffrage: Victorian Women Trailblazers

Marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote, this exhibition illuminated activities and contributions of Norwalk suffragists, and the local traction that impacted regional and national messages of the suffrage movement. Extensive research and loans from institutions and private collections around the state uncovered information, artifacts, and ephemera identifying faces, actions, and words of pivotal women and men. Costumes conveyed suffragist symbolism and the restrictive fashions that paralleled the fight for women’s rights as well as freedom of movement. The first Connecticut exhibition dedicated to this milestone in women’s history, it set an inspiring example.

Sharon Historical Society

Sharon Cures: Centuries of Medicine in One Small Town

Focused on a subject often overlooked by local historical societies, this exhibition delved into the evolving world of health care in past centuries drawing connections to contemporary medical issues, and featured three local doctors’ stories. Sharon was the site of advancements in vaccinations, immunotherapy, and physician gender equality. Inoculations to treat 18th-century diseases and people’s resistance to vaccination resonate with the current anti-vax movement. Exhibit text and handouts stimulated thought about individuals’ social responsibility for public health. The comprehensive original research and willingness to tackle medical history are an important contribution to both Connecticut’s history and medical history, with heightened relevance to today.

Wilton Historical Society

Just Like Grandma Used to Make: A Hands-On Experience of 300 Years of Kitchen History

Using a “please touch” model of interpretation, this hands-on exhibition fosters a highly interactive and multisensory museum experience that engages audiences of all ages. A low-cost, high-reward reboot of a kitchen period room, this project demonstrates how historic house rooms can successfully move away from static displays and traditional methods to enhance the visitor experience. This innovative reframing of a domestic setting provides inviting, stimulating, and immersive activities that allow direct and personal connection resulting in more impactful learning about history.  


Jeanné R. Stewart Chesanow

Glaciers to Greenhouses: Cheshire Then and Now

This publication captures broad research on Cheshire’s history with an emphasis on the environment, and connections between the land and people. It sets a new standard for local history books by weaving together a rich combination of geology, geography, and archeology, including more research about Indigenous Peoples than typically found. Using an ecological approach to the town’s development, it examines how the natural environment played a role in shaping early settlement to the greenhouse operations today. This town-focused study of environmental history, and its place in Connecticut’s ecological and geographical framework, furthers our understanding of the state’s history. 

Eve Kahn and Wesleyan University Press

Forever Seeing New Beauties: The Forgotten Impressionist Mary Rogers Williams, 1857-1907

Ms. Kahn’s discovery of 100 paintings and pastels along with a trove of letters resulted in an extraordinary portrait of Hartford native Mary Rogers Williams. This book features surviving artworks and illuminates the artist and her accomplishments during the Gilded Age’s male-dominated art world. Researching thousands of vivid letters revealed a fiercely independent woman dedicated to painting, teaching in the art department at Smith College, and traveling throughout Europe while contending with obstacles to gaining professional respect and support as a woman artist. Kahn, a “resurrectionist,” has rescued Williams from obscurity, adding to the perspective of women’s history in Connecticut and the larger story of American art.

Thomas Lenz and Killingworth Historical Society

The Early Gravestones of a Colonial Town: Killingworth, Connecticut

Images of more than 450 gravestones form an impressive catalogue that is also a field guide to Connecticut cemeteries more generally, replete with information about changing styles, iconography, symbolism, causes of death, widespread maladies, and meanings of burial practices. After photographing 18th- century gravestones in the oldest cemetery, the project was extended to all seven town cemeteries and a private one; many gravestones were cleaned, repaired, and reset. This book is an invaluable documentation of the gravestones, which inevitably wear over time, and an important historical record of the area’s early residents.

Norfolk Historical Society

A Remarkable Legacy: The Photographs of Marie Hartig Kendall

Selected works by late 19th and early 20th century Norfolk photographer Marie Kendall are beautifully showcased in this impressive volume. An exhibition accompanied the publication of this book, which is enriched by essays from three residents. Kendall’s striking images demonstrate a broad range of skills, an adventurous spirit, and a high level of artistry that won her considerable recognition including medals at two international expositions. During this era, she was a role model for photography as a woman’s profession to produce both art and income. Her work recorded Norfolk’s transformation from a charcoal village into a stylish summer resort, providing an important window into the town’s history.


William Hosley

For over 40 years, Bill Hosley has been a dedicated advocate for the importance of local history. During tenures at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Antiquarian & Landmarks Society, and New Haven Museum and Historical Society, he blazed a trail as a prolific speaker promoting place, past, and community. His passion for Connecticut history resulted in acclaimed exhibitions including The Great River: Art and Society of the Connecticut Valley for the state’s 350th celebration, and Sam & Elizabeth: The Legend and Legacy of Colt’s Empire, which inspired a preservation initiative for Coltsville to become a National Park. He founded Terra Firma Northeast to serve the needs of small organizations rich in historic resources and continues his popular lectures. The heritage community is indebted to Bill’s lifetime commitment to Connecticut history. 

Edwin Parry

As an expert on Colonial armaments, Ed Parry of Black Hart Long Arms has been making custom reproductions for 30 years. Noted for his master craftsmanship and historical accuracy, he receives commissions nationwide, and he won the Discovery Channel’s “Master of Arms” competition. A founding member of the 1775 Ye Olde Lebanon Towne Militia, he participates in encampments and battle re-enactments throughout New England as an educator about the Revolutionary War. For Eastford Conservation and Historical Preservation Commission, he has dedicated himself to the restoration, preservation, and cataloguing of the town’s 12 historic cemeteries. Ed’s exemplary achievements have greatly contributed to the understanding of Connecticut history.

Judith Robison

Founder and long-time President of the Stony Creek Museum, Judith Robison was the driving force that resulted in its creation and 2011 opening. With passionate leadership, vision, and inspiration, she raised funds and worked with the town to convert an old church into a local history museum. She continues to be a steward of the museum, dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of this unique Branford village with its residents as well as the wider public. Robison’s work has profoundly impacted the Stony Creek community, and brought its rich history into the Connecticut story.

Kendall F. Wiggin

During his 21-year tenure as State Librarian, Ken Wiggin championed collaborations among libraries, archives, and museums on numerous initiatives to benefit Connecticut’s cultural heritage community. Ken’s leadership and mentoring have been instrumental to the success of such projects as the Connecticut Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration, the World War I Centennial, the Connecticut Digital Archive, Connecticut History Online, Conservation ConneCTion, the Historic Documents Preservation Program, and many more. His tireless advocacy, inspiring counsel, and devoted work to ensure increased access to historical resources for researchers, scholars, and Connecticut citizens have made him an icon in our state’s historical community.

2020 Awards of Merit Slideshow

19 photo(s) Updated on: Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Connecticut League of History Organizations
Central Connecticut State UniversityDepartment of History
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
(860) 832-2674

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