Rarely exhibited pieces among 80 artifacts the Danbury Museum will showcase for its 80th anniversary

DANBURY — To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the Danbury Museum & Historical Society will present a new exhibit this summer to highlight the city’s long and varied history.

The Danbury (Re)Discovered exhibition – which opens in June – will feature 80 artifacts, collected by the museum over the past eight decades, to tell different stories of Hat City.

“Danbury’s history is varied and incredibly complex,” said Brigid Guertin, the museum’s executive director. “Not only are the layers of the past visibly present, but they inform the present – and that’s a big part of what our exhibit will hopefully make our visitors think about.”

Objects from the Danbury (Re)Discovered exhibit will be displayed on the main street campus of the Danbury Museum & Historical Society, as well as at the birthplace of Charles Ives on Mountainville Avenue.

“Our concept is that the exhibition will not just be in one place, but spread out,” Guertin said. “We thought it would be kind of fun to show visitors these different objects in different spaces.”

While some objects may be familiar, other artifacts featured in the Danbury (Re)Discover exhibition will not.

Guertin said one of his favorite artifacts – a French and Indian War-era gunpowder horn – will be on display at the John Rider House as part of the exhibit.

“The powder horn is not usually on display, but we will remove it,” she said, noting that other items in the historic house will be tied to the Rider family, as well as history. of the Danbury War of Independence.

An item selected for display in the John Dodd Hat Shop will not only tell the hundreds-year-old story of immigration to Danbury, but will compare the city’s past, present and future.

“We really want visitors to think about this great ark of wonderful stories and incredible people who have been here since 1684 and continue to arrive every day,” Guertin said.

“Danbury is constantly growing and evolving,” she said, “and there are new stories to share that inspire and provide great examples of how our community can and has progressed time and time again. “

Guertin said costumes and quilts will also be included in the Danbury (Re)Discover exhibit, including some items that have never been shown by the museum.

“We’re going to have some of Marian Anderson’s dresses, as well as other artifacts that we typically keep in our archives, on display in the Marian Anderson studio that haven’t been released to the public,” she said.

One of the items on display is relatively new to the museum’s collection – a pitch pipe that once belonged to Anderson.

Although the reduction to 80 artifacts was quite difficult, Guertin said museum staff had “a lot of fun” choosing which objects to display to celebrate the Danbury Museum & Historical Society’s eight decades of preservation and education. .

The origins of the organization date back to the early 1940s, when a group of residents banded together to save a house, built around 1785, known as the John Rider House.

“The Rider House was to be demolished to make way for a gas station, and concerned citizens saw what was happening, came together and saved the building,” Guertin said.

These citizens then formed the Danbury Historical Society and Arts Center, which later merged with the Scott-Fanton Museum and eventually formed the Danbury Museum & Historical Society Authority.

Although the organization has changed over the years, Guertin said the Danbury Museum & Historical Society has always maintained a theme of preservation with purpose.

“Our mission over the past 80 years has been to preserve what we have in a way that is useful and can help educate the public in many different ways,” she said.

After the Rider House, the organization acquired the John Dodd Hat Shop (c. 1790), the old King Street Schoolhouse, the Little Red Schoolhouse, and the Charles Ives Birthplace on Mountainville Avenue in the 1950s and 1960s. It also built Huntington Hall, where the museum operates a research library, offices and exhibits.

In 1999 he acquired the former studio of African-American contralto singer Marian Anderson and spent five years working to restore the building.

The Danbury (Re)Discover exhibition — which opens June 18 and runs through mid-November — is designed not only to celebrate the museum’s 80-year history, according to Guertin, but also to open the people’s eyes on the history around them.

“We’re hoping for a fun summer where people come to learn a bit more about the Danbury we see every day,” she said. “Danbury’s hidden history is all around us, and we really want that to be part of the narrative as well.”

As for the future of the Danbury & Historical Society, Guertin said the goal is for it to continue to serve as “home of Danbury’s historical archives and center of education”.

“The museum has meant different things to different people over the past 80 years, and its evolution has been a direct reflection of how our community has grown and changed. I really hope the community continues to see us as a community asset,” she said, noting the museum’s recently expanded digital presence.

Over the past calendar year, Guertin said the museum has reached more than one million people on its social media platforms and hopes to reach even more in the years to come.

“We use social media not just for fundraising, but also to tell unique stories and make Danbury’s story accessible in a way that meets people where they really are,” she said. declared. “We hope to continue the theme of preservation and education in this decade and the next in a hugely accessible way.”

For more information on the Danbury Museum & Historical Society, go to danburymuseum.org.

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