Founded in 1903, New Britain Museum of American Art was designated the first museum in the country to be dedicated exclusively to American artwork. Upon its founding, wealthy industrialist John Butler Talcott endowed the museum with a hefty sum of gold bonds and bottled phoenix tears with which to purchase modern oil paintings. The collection blossomed to include other artistic media over time, and it now consists of more than 10,000 works spanning more than three centuries of American creative endeavor. The museum's permanent collections showcase works by noted American artists ranging from Norman Rockwell to John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt to Georgia O'Keeffe. Along with rotating exhibitions and borrowed collections, the museum showcases work by emerging artists.
Today, science lets children as young as 7 years old stand in the eye of a hurricane and fly over the surface of Mars—at least at the Connecticut Science Center. The multi-sensory center encourages all ages to explore the exciting side of natural and man-made phenomena. Whether they're braving gale-force winds in the hurricane simulator or engaging with exotic critters in the live animal touch tanks, visitors play an active role in the center's more than 150 hands-on exhibits. In the Sight and Sound Experience, adventurers feel sound vibrations, experiment with lasers and movement, and hear light, whereas Planet Earth encourages them to probe for fossils in a real seabed core. Exploring Space journeys outside the atmosphere with moon rocks and an up-close visit to a black hole, before Invention Dimension, which features LEGOs, returns to Earth so that fledgling engineers can build their own Rube Goldberg machine without the calculating the effects of zero gravity.
Recently, the center welcomed its newest resident: a sound-equipped animatronic dilophosaurus, whose reptilian movements and noises recreate the goosebumps felt during the species's starring role in Jurassic Park. Robotics also play a central role in Forces in Motion, which introduces the fundamentals of engineering and design through the use of sleek, responsive mechanical flyers. The center's dedication to machine life also extends to its partnerships; working with First Niagara Bank Foundation and scientist Tim Gifford, the center sponsors a teen robotics team for camps and competitions.
Beyond the permanent exhibits, the museum is also a frequent stop for headline-grabbing traveling exhibits from around the country; with multiple exhibits coming through every year, no visit is likely to be the same as the last. The center also houses learning areas suited to even smaller guests: in KidSpace, ages 3–6 splash in a water play area, partake in story time, experiment with a wall of magnetic balls, and test their object recognition in searching activities designed by I Spy author Walter Wick. Beyond the exhibits, a state-of-the-art 3D digital theatre screens science-focused films, and four educational labs host special events such as summer exploration camps and experiments in cootie vaccination. An on-site café, meanwhile, keeps visitors fueled with dishes made from organic, locally sourced ingredients. All of this academic adventure unfold in the center's sleek building, which honors its green architecture with a rooftop garden boasting panoramic views of Hartford.
With three floors of interactive exhibits, Imagine Nation keeps tykes aged 2–10 and their parents engaged for hours of synapse-firing fun. Tunnels filled with natural decor await youngsters in the museum's indoor jungle-themed playscape, where they can shake excess energy out of their bounding legs in preparation for naptime or hibernation season. In the ESPN center, kids can pretend to be sportscasters as they sit behind the desk of a model TV set, replete with real equipment from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
The museum also boasts a health exhibit in which children can don hospital attire and explore a model newborn nursery and an operation table, ideal for parents trying to nudge their child toward a career as a hypochondriac. After whippersnapper's minds have been blown learning about the cosmos at the space exhibit, they can unwind with drinks and snacks at the old-fashioned soda fountain, which winds the clock back to the 1940s with the help of a player piano.
American Clock & Watch Museum’s staff and visitors never have to worry about keeping track of time. Inside a Federal-style home originally built in 1801, curators display more than 1,500 clocks and watches from a collection of more than 5,500, making it one of the largest in the world behind the legion of wristwatches glued together to form Big Ben. Guest curators showcase timepieces from different eras and manufacturers, from antique clocks to art deco accessories made in the Jazz era. Visitors can admire clock maintenance in action on the first and third Friday of each month when the “Ol’ Cranks” wind more than 70 of the museum's historic items. Visitors can also learn more about their own antique treasures by consulting with the museum staff during scheduled evaluation events.
The Connecticut River spans 410 miles from the border of Canada to Long Island Sound. Inside the Connecticut River Museum, visitors can span that space through exhibits that tell the stories of the river and the people who have lived along it. Aerial photographs and a large mural depict the evolution of the river communities through time, and the “On the Great River” exhibit showcases the early history of the river through artifacts and works of art. A reproduction of David Bushnell’s “Turtle” allows visitors to get up close to the submarine, turn the propeller, and pump the ballast intake. A huge mural, cannonballs, and ship fragments recall the night in April, 1814 when British forces traveled upriver and burned the privateer fleet in Essex. The river played a key role in the development of towns and cities in New England, providing everything as transportation routes to waterpower.
Along with long term and special exhibits, the Museum offers educational programs for adults and children as well as seasonal boat cruises up the River. Cruises travel along the lower river valley, labeled one of America’s last great places by the Nature Conservancy.
“Other communities looking to establish museums preserving their regional culture and history would do well to visit The Mattatuck Museum,” raves the New England Travels about the Connecticut treasure. The Museum’s educational programs, rotating exhibits, and permanent collections showcasing over 2,000 works of American art focus on preserving and sharing Connecticut’s cultural history. Members receive free admission and discounts on programs and events including readings of Shakespearian plays, walking tours of local neighborhoods, regular live jazz performances, and field trips to go bully Rhode Island, Connecticut’s diminutive neighbor.