The fresh breezes that buffet Mystic's shoreline probably feel much the same as they did 150 years ago, so it's a fitting place to find America's nautical history resurrected. Called Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, the extensive grounds could almost qualify as a theme park. In addition to the museum proper, the complex hosts a rebuilt 19th-century sea-faring village, a working shipyard, and extensive gardens that blanket the grounds. Live museum staff lead demonstrations and performances throughout, even welcoming guests aboard the four National Historic Landmark vessels moored in port. Nearby, captains take visitors out on the water in a coal-fired steamboat to experience the river and town from a different angle. They also rent out their vessels to other licensed boaters seasonally, who can sail or row their way across the Mystic River. When tired of ship studying and naval gazing, guests can head to the Treworgy Planetarium and turn their eyes to the stars, learning how to chart courses in the manner of ancient captains, modern astronauts, and late-night deliverymen.
Within a 308,000-square-foot complex run by the government of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation lies the keys to unlock 20,000 years of Native American history. Atop a 185-foot tower made from stone and glass, visitors drink in views of the region before heading back downstairs to visit the exhibits. Life-size, walk-through dioramas and live performances tell stories via interactive means, and two libraries keep archival materials that are perusable by children and adults. In addition to the permanent exhibits, special events take place throughout the year from harvest festivals to beading circles.
Inside a neo-Romanesque building on the Norwich Free Academy campus, Slater Memorial Museum traces local and world history with an extensive art collection. More than 150 plaster casts of classical and Renaissance sculpture tower above basketry, ceremonial masks, and leatherwork from African artisans, as well as artifacts from Mesopotamia and Persia. Saving space for those from North American shores, the museum also displays work from 19th-century Norwich artists, such as Denison Crocker and John Trumbull, plus pieces from 20th-century Connecticut artists, such as Ozias Dodge and Charlotte Fuller Eastman. The galleries host annual rotating exhibitions and events. Visitors courting their own muse can craft metal art and jewelry at adult art classes, and kid artistes sample a range of disciplines from printmaking and watercolors.
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.
Longtime resident of northeastern Connecticut, Carly Martin founded Silver Circle in 2008 with the belief that art is the glue that keeps communities together, granting local artists a space to exhibit their masterworks, hosting classes for aspiring Picassos to hone their craft, and providing a venue for jewelry makers to sell their crafts. The original pieces in Martin's gallery––which have included works by Jean-Paul Jacquet and George Chaplin––rotate on a four- to six-week schedule, and featured exhibits can be viewed in the main hall every Tuesday through Sunday, or through an enchanted mirror on Monday. Rather than having a decorative mindset while choosing the pieces for the gallery, Martin takes a more spontaneous approach, telling the Putnam Villager, “We don't concern ourselves with 'matching'... If a piece of artwork speaks to us, it can change our whole space and add energy and interest in unexpected ways. Art truly breathes life into a home.”
At Lutz Children's Museum, curious young ones aged 2 to 10 explore rotating hands-on exhibits to soak up knowledge and stoke imagination flames. Dismount aluminum covered wagons and kick off a terra firma cultural journey at the main street exhibit, which depicts a World War II-era American village, including a detailed shop and school. Meanwhile, the farm exhibit vividly displays 19th-century Connecticut farm life, where kids can collect eggs from hens, climb in a hayloft, milk the resident cow, or psychoanalyze their moos. Colorful works decorate the halls of the children's art gallery, which occasionally features the creative work of professional artists, while cuddleful perks await visitors of the rescued live animals, where a chinchilla named Bounce currently prowls the grounds alongside about 50 other cute creatures.