Browse Exhibits (13 total)

An American Story: Finding Home in Fairfield County

FMHC developed the exhibition with CIRI; each partner offering their skills and expertise, historical content, contemporary knowledge, and networks of clients and supporters. The exhibition featured photographic portraits and narratives of eight individuals from Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Hungary, India, Rwanda, and Syria, respectively, who rebuilt their lives locally. Their stories, spanning from WWII to present, were accompanied by their loaned objects, such as a one person’s travel bag used during his stay in a Cambodian refugee camp, and keys to a home no longer standing in Damascus. Text panels offered context on immigration patterns, refugee policy, and the resettlement process. With facts and personal human narratives, visitors were given a broad picture to understand what an immigrant or a refugee coming to America experiences. Visitors interacted with the exhibit by listening to audio excerpts of individual refugee stories, magnetically marking their personal family ancestry on a world map, trying to answer the U.S. Naturalization civics test questions, and writing messages of encouragement to recent and future arrivals.

 

CIRI and FMHC presented a series of impactful public programs. They included: “Women Rebuilding,” about local empowerment projects that give marginalized women entrepreneurship opportunities; a “Sanctuary: Interfaith Forum” with Bridgeport Islamic Center, Congregation B’nai Israel, and the Unitarian Church of Westport; and “Stories of Hope: From Rwanda to America” featuring survivors Daniel Trust and Evelyne Mukasonga. A film series of documentaries also shared stories of local refugees: “Refuge,” “Searching for Wordin Avenue” and “Rebuilding Hope.” FMHC and CIRI worked with the Burroughs Community Center and local African refugee women to curate a companion exhibition of fabric artworks by “Our Woven Community,” a program for Bridgeport refugee women that provides networking and income. FMHC still offers their beautiful work for sale in the Museum’s Gift Shop. Family audiences also actively participated through workshops, storytelling, and performances throughout the run of the exhibition.

 

The Fairfield Museum and History Center believes in the power of history to inspire the imagination, stimulate thought and transform society. We connect people around complex history so that together we may shape a more informed future. As a public forum for the process of shared discovery, we celebrate and cultivate the elements that create and bind community: complex stories from multiple points of view that explore the diverse legacies of our region. FMHC and CIRI brought audiences together to learn and exchange ideas regarding immigration, which enabled FMHC to reach its goal of serving as a place for learning and dialogue about contemporary issues.

Connecticut, 1940: Farms, Factories, and the Photographs of Jack Delano

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In 1940 and ‘41, photographer Jack Delano (1914–1997) documented farm and city life in Connecticut for the Farm Security Administration. In rare early color photographs as well as black-and-white images, Delano captured views of Connecticut as it recovered from the Great Depression, showing views of farmers, factory workers, and commuters. Born in Ukraine, Delano emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1923 and studied art and music at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. A musician and composer as well as a photographer, Delano traveled throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico as a FSA photographer before serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he settled with his wife Irene in Puerto Rico, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Fairfield's Fairways: 120 Years of Golf

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Golf has deep roots in Fairfield, going back to the 1890s, when the sport was just becoming a national obsession. Country clubs – Brooklawn Country Club, the Country Club of Fairfield and the Patterson Club – provided the space for golf to flourish, while public courses later opened up the sport to others in the community. From these roots, Fairfield’s fairways have produced star golfers: among them, the early women’s golf champion Georgiana Bishop, internationally renowned players Gene Sarazen and Julius Boros, and today’s champions J. J. Henry and Heather Daly-Donofrio.

This exhibition celebrates the tradition of golf in Fairfield, exploring the evolution of its clubs and courses over the past 120 years and highlighting the achievements of some of Fairfield’s champion golfers, the work of notable course designers, and the significant tournaments that have taken place here.

 

Special thanks to: 

Brooklawn Country Club, Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course, H. Smith Richardson Golf Course, The Country Club of Fairfield, The Patterson Club, Connecticut State Golf Association, and the United States Golf Association, Museum and Archives, Far Hills, New Jersey

 

Flappers, Fashion and Freedom

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The year 1920 marked a watershed in the ongoing struggle for American women’s equality, as women secured the right to vote and claimed full citizenship alongside men. As they moved increasingly into colleges, workplaces, and public life, a new generation sought further social freedoms to move, dress, and behave as they pleased.

The "New Woman" of the 1920s rejected the earlier generation's rules and conventions. For guidance, she looked beyond her mother and grandmothers - to the rising stars of Hollywood, magazines, and advertisements - to define what it meant to be a modern woman.

The flapper was her name.

She embraced the new styles of shorter skirts and bobbed hair, frequented dance halls and speakeasies, and flouted earlier standards of social behaviors. Driving cars, smoking, and dancing, she represented the "New Woman's" search for freedom.

The flapper was as much cultural style as a reality, and not all women took on her glamorous and rebellious identity. However, women across social lines embraced the fashions of flappers and in doing so, embodied the new ideals of modern womanhood. 

Nearly a hundred years later, we are drawn to the fashion and carefree spirit of the 1920s flapper. We also inherit the internal contradictions that she faced as we continue to seek and advance American women's equality.

This exhibition was presented from August 2018 through January 2019, with generous support from Connecticut Humanities

Growing Up In Fairfield

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What was it like to grow up in Fairfield in past generations? How has childhood changed over time?

This exhibition looks back at the experience of growing up from the 1940s and 1950s—when the idea of the teenage years as a distinct phase of life first took shape—to the decades that followed. To provide more historical perspective, the exhibition also includes items from the 1800s, showing how nineteenth-century children’s lives compare to those we remember.

While each generation’s coming of age is shaped by the culture and events of its era, many elements of growing up in Fairfield have remained constant: the landscape of beach, woods, and hills; the schools and organizations focused on children; and the places and businesses that became part of daily life. 

Setting the Stage in the 1940s and 1950s

In the post-World War II period, Fairfield grew faster than at any other time in its history, more than doubling in population, as families from Bridgeport and elsewhere were drawn to the town’s suburban lifestyle and quiet neighborhoods. New developments in prefabrication, which reduced the cost of housing, along with government-subsidized mortgages, made it possible for many more people to afford a home in Fairfield.

Around the country, a unique combination of historical circumstances—the baby boom, the affluence of the postwar years, and the migration of thousands of young families—helped create a culture focused on children. Parents whose own childhood had been marked by war and insecurity were intent on giving their children a protected environment and the freedom to enjoy childhood’s pleasures.

During this time, the word “teenager” first came into use. Sharing the common experience of high school, teens developed an identity separate from that of their families, with clothing styles, music, and slang all their own. The teen culture they developed set the pattern for the generations that followed.  

 

Growing up in Fairfield was on view at the Fairfield Museum from July 3- October 2, 2014.

Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight

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Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant experimented with flight at the beginning of the 20th century. In 2013, the aviation "bible" Jane's All About Aircraft concluded from a study of the evidence (long debated) that Whitehead made powered flights two years before the Wright brothers, in the summer of 1901, in Fairfield, Bridgeport, and Stratford, Connecticut.

Following Jane's recognition, Governor Malloy signed into law on June 25th a bill that included recognition of Gustave Whitehead as the first man to achieve successful powered flight. Per the text of the bill, in Connecticut "Powered Flight Day" will now be celebrated to honor Gustave Whitehead rather than the Wright Brothers. For more information, see coverage by The Economist.

The Fairfield Museum’s library contains copies of the books by O’Dwyer and Randolph that present their research , which are now out of print, as well as the William O’Dwyer Gustave Whitehead Research Collection, which contains photographs, newspaper articles, and correspondence about Whitehead’s flights.

 

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Make Your Mark

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On walls, on objects, on the human body, on paper…what does it mean to stamp your label, leave a paint stroke, sign your name, or sew a stitch?

The deep human need to leave a mark on the things we make and the places we live has been a constant throughout history, though the form it takes varies widely. This exhibition explores how people – whether quilters, silversmiths, graffiti artists or painters - leave their creative marks on their communities. Past craftspeople, leaders, and ordinary people left marks behind on their creations, demonstrating pride in their accomplishments and documenting their social connections. Contemporary artists today also seek to leave a lasting impression and even transform communities through their works of art.

This exhibit was on view from February 14 - September 15, 2019.

With special thanks to Theodore Bresky, Frankie Frieri, John Paul O’Grodnick, Seth Kaller Inc., and Liz Squillace.

Mobilizing the Homefront: Posters from World War II

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During World War II, the U.S. government used posters to rally support for the war and convince Americans that an all-out effort at home was necessary to win the military campaign abroad. At a time when media was primarily limited to radio, film, and prints, posters--cheap, colorful, and immediate--were one of the most efficient means to spread the government’s messages. Various government agencies employed the country’s top artists and illustrators to create strong imagery to persuade Americans to increase their productivity in factories, buy war bonds, and enlarge their wartime responsibilities. In effect, every American, whether soldier or civilian, was enlisted to help win the war.

Although posters by their very nature are intended to be ephemeral--disposed of after display--many World War II images have endured, and speak to the issues we still face today: of sacrifice, responsibility, and the use of limited resources. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe, the posters on view in this gallery help us remember how Americans were urged to unite to meet the challenges of wartime. 

Mobilizing the Homefront: Posters from World War II was on view at the Fairfield Museum from January 16 - May 10, 2015.

Picturing Fairfield: The Photographs of Mabel Osgood Wright

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Mabel Osgood Wright (1859-1934) always preferred the country to the city. As a child growing up in New York City, Wright savored the summers she spent at Mosswood, her family’s retreat in rural Fairfield, and made it her permanent home in 1884 after she married. Living at a time when the United States was rapidly shifting from an agrarian to an industrial and urban country, Wright became an avid conservationist, making the preservation of New England’s wildlife and countryside her life’s work. From her home in Fairfield, Wright wrote popular field guides on local wildlife, helped establish the Connecticut Audubon Society, and founded Birdcraft Sanctuary as a refuge for birds in Fairfield.

From early on, photography was instrumental to Wright’s conservationist efforts, a means to document the disappearing landscape around her. Wright often turned her camera toward Fairfield, which at the turn of the twentieth century was just beginning to move away from its rural past and feel the effects of city life. At times nostalgic and sentimental, Wright’s photographs focus on Fairfield’s homes, gardens, people, and the local countryside and present Fairfield as a traditional New England town. At a time when many writers and thinkers were increasingly worried that the nation was losing its “rural virtue” to the growth of the city, Wright’s photographs portray Fairfield as an ideal suburb, an antidote to what she viewed as the “whirpool” of city life. 

 

This exhibition was on view at the Fairfield Museum in 2014. 

 

Rising Tides: Fairfield’s Coast - Past to Future

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Fairfield has always been a coastal community, although we have looked at the coast differently over time: as a place of natural abundance, an opportunity for travel and commerce, and a landscape of beauty and recreation. The coast has changed over time too, and rising sea levels will require us to adapt to new ways of living on the shoreline.  

This exhibition was on view at the Fairifeld Museum from September 2016-March 2017, and won an award from the American Association for State and Local History in 2017. Special thanks to the Connecticut Audubon Society, the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), The Nature Conservancy of Connecticut, Tom Steinke, and the Town of Fairfield.

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