Interactive Year-Long Exhibit Tells 300-year story of the town

On April 16, the Westport Historical Society will debut “The History of Westport in 100 Objects”, a year-long exhibit showcasing  the history of the town over a few hundred years from first settlement to the present.

“This year-long project is a fun way for kids and adults to learn about the history of our wonderful town,” said Ramin Ganeshram, Executive Director of Westport Historical Society. “These objects and artifacts—some of them hundreds of years old and many never before seen by the public – will truly bring the past to life.”

Carved out of Fairfield in 1835, Westport’s recorded history of colonial settlement activity dates back to the June 1637 battle with native people at Fairfield Swamp. Over several hundred years, Westport saw successive transformations from farming settlement of ‘long lots’ to incorporated town in 1835 to artist community to suburban residential area. It’s hard to believe looking upon the placid waters of the Saugatuck river that there were once mills on the banks preparing grain for the Boston Revolutionary contingent, while volunteers patrolled the river and the Sound against British attacks. Even harder to believe while watching weekend anglers is that the town had a whipping post to punish offenses such as fishing on Sunday.

Beginning with a kid-focused (5th to 8th grade) reception from 4:00-6:00 PM on April 16, exhibit highlights include:

  • A display case, in Wheeler House’s front hall, changing every two weeks.
  • A mystery object will be on display with every case, and visitors may vote on its identity is by ballot. A winner will be drawn from the correct answer and will receive an item from the gift shop.
  • A passport/online check-in will make the exhibit more interactive for kids. After a certain number of visits to the 100 Objects visit, they will get scrip to make purchases at the gift store.
  • After each case comes off display, its items will go up in a digital exhibit at westporthistory.org.

 In partnership with Westport Historical Society, the Westport Library and Saugatuck StoryFest creators are organizing “100 Objects, 100 Stories” in conjunction with the exhibit. A collaboration between the Library and Staples High School, the project will see 100 writers from across Westport – students, professional writers, prominent community members and others – contributing 500-word pieces of flash fiction, each inspired by an object in the exhibit.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Westport Historical Society on this project, and are so glad they’re going to be a part of the Saugatuck StoryFest,” said Cody Daigle-Orians, program specialist for The Westport Library.

These stories will be featured throughout the duration of the Historical Society’s exhibit, and they will be spotlighted in a special program during the Saugatuck StoryFest in October.    

“We believe this project is an interesting way for our organizations to engage the community in thinking about – and being inspired by – that story,” said Kim Herzog, English and Personalized Learning Teacher at Staples High School.   

The History of Westport in 100 Objects is a great opportunity for visitors to learn about the town in an interactive and stimulating way. At the end of the year of 100 Objects, WHS will ask the town to vote on their favorite objects using the online gallery and to suggest items for a time capsule of modern objects to be buried on WHS property at a Spring 2019 ceremony.

The goal will be for WHS curators in 25 years to redo the History of Westport in 100 Objects, adding items from the time capsule.  Special Note: If people have Westport artifacts, the WHS would love to see and hear about them at 100Objects@westporthistory.org