We have the answers to your most frequently asked questions! Click on the category of your questions to learn more.
Beginning in January 2018, the museum adopted a fee structure to use its archives that was similar to other historical societies and museums. It is expensive to maintain the archives and requires special supplies and climactic controls for the vault. Our ongoing digitization program which will make our resources available to the researchers and scholars through a state catalog system, is also costly. Fees offset these necessary expenses.
Our archives are housed in an archival vault that was placed below ground when it was installed in the 1980s. The vault contains paper records, some of which date to as early as 1649. These documents were donated from members of the community or other institutions over the years.
We are grateful for all offers of collection donations but cannot, unfortunately, accept every item. We ask that you forward a photo and description of the item you wish to donate to firstname.lastname@example.org for assessment. Potential items are reviewed with a variety of factors in mind: relation to local history; condition; potential need for restoration; and whether there are already similar items in the collection. A deed of gift must accompany any accepted items.
Museum level collections storage is a very specific science that includes specialized storage containers, temperature and humidity controls, and precise cataloging for the purpose of research. Our nonprofit status requires we follow certain protocols to protect collections. To neglect or destroy them is considered an abdication of fiduciary responsibility and specifically against the law.
We appreciate all donations but we cannot accept anything that is simply left—even with our greeters. Items are subject to an assessment review process and a quarantine period prior to acceptance in our collections in case they are contaminated with mold, household chemicals, off-gassing or vermin.
Fill out our online program survey! Feedback helps us create programs and events that are relevant to the public. Please participate so we may align our offerings to serve our community better!
Westport Museum has been fortunate enough to occupy its current headquarters since 1981. Over that time there have been hundreds of exhibits on display. In order to maintain a streamlined, user-friendly website, we follow practices of many other colleague institutions and post two to three years most recent, consecutive years of exhibits online.
The Town of Westport’s history spans nearly four hundred years of post-European colonization and 7500 years of pre-European indigenous habitation. This is a lot of history! We address this history in exhibits and programs in order to explore each topic with extensive rigor. We do sell several books in our gift shop about local history and The Town of Westport’s official site also contains a town history as well.
If you would like to read about specific topics of Westport history please visit our blog–Museum Musings!
Come and visit the past! We are open Tuesday – Friday 11 am – 5 pm. Saturdays our hours are 10 am – 4 pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays. For holiday closures please check our “Announcements” section on the homepage.
Our mission is to inspire the holistic discovery of our town’s history inclusive of our collective heritage and its place in the larger American story
Your donation goes towards the creation and facilitation of award winning publications, exhibitions, and programs. Donations also support the preservation of our collections which is ever ongoing!
If you are interested in making a donation please visit our Support the Museum page.
WM doesn’t receive money from the town or the state. We apply for grants—some of which come from the state or federal government—but these are not regular, dependable income. The Town of Westport did pay to rent storage space in our vault but will no longer do so after January 2020.
Handicap parking, restroom and access is available on site for all public spaces.
Members in good standing receive the following benefits throughout their year of membership:
- Discounted tickets to special events
- Discounts for programs
- Free Admission to exhibitions
- 10% discount in the shop at the Bradley-Wheeler House
- Access to member exclusive programs
- Additional benefits dependent on membership level
- The opportunity to contribute to the preservation and celebration of Westport’s history
The Board of Directors voted to change the name of the organization back in 2017 after going through a program called StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) which was run by Connecticut Humanities. That program allowed the organization’s total operations to be assessed with the goal of creating a strategic plan. As part of that plan, a name change to incorporate “museum” was recommended. That change is formally taking effect now.
The quality of work that WM has done in the last two years with respect to exhibits, programming, research and collaboration has put it in the category of respected museums. Formally, pursuing museum status allows WM to apply for better funding opportunities in terms of grants and sponsorships.
The new name reflects WM award-winning museum work and mission to explore history factually and by recognizing the many different aspects of local and regional culture that contribute to the town and larger area.
The Executive Director oversees enacting what is outlined in the strategic plan. To date, the current executive director and staff have enacted over 80% of that plan.
After examining the whole operations with StEPs from 2014 through 2017, the three-year strategic plan that was created addressed modernization and reorganization of the whole organization. This included de-installing the period rooms, digitizing collections; making long overdue repairs to Bradley-Wheeler House and cobblestone barn; assessing governance on a continual basis/bylaws and structuring of committees; digital technology overhaul; public engagement; gift shop overhaul; reorganizing public spaces and much more.
More information about the museums strategic plan can be found in the 2017-18 Annual report.
The “period” rooms were created by volunteers in the 1980s with the best of intentions and were enjoyed by many throughout the years. However, guidelines from museum accreditation agencies are very clear about what makes a house museum or period room and, unfortunately, the period rooms at WM did not meet that standard. The Board of Directors voted to de-install them as part of its strategic plan.
If I want to suggest a program or exhibit or general comment to WM who do I speak to? Does the board manage those things?
Any general comments, suggestions, or requests to do exhibits need to go the Executive Director who runs the organization. The board does not have any say on these activities outside of general oversight that the organization stays on mission.
For program suggestions please fill-out our online program survey available here.