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Westport Treasures to be revealed

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Mark your calendars for the opening of the Westport Historical Society’s new exhibit, Treasures Revealed! Mollie Donovan Gallery: Inside Story on  January 27, 2013. This evocative exhibit runs through April 27, 2013.

Until now, the Westport Historical Society’s Archives and Collections—parts of which date to the 1700s— have remained a mystery for  visitors. So has the “inside story” of the Westport Historical Society’s landmark Bradley-Wheeler House–which began as a 1795 saltbox, but became a renovated Italiante in the 1800s–and its companion cobblestone barn.

Due to security, preservation climate control requirements and crowded storage conditions, only a handful of staff and trained volunteers have access to the Society’s underground Archive and Collection closets.  There, they reverently cataloged, preserved and protected  fragile, vintage documents, photos, maps, market boat journals, house histories, oral histories, ancient family bibles, vintage costumes (garments and textiles), artwork, objects, tools, music boxes and toys  and other priceless links to Westport’s past.

A special collaboration between the Society’s Exhibits, Oral History, Archives and Collections Committees, two new Exhibits, Treasures Revealed:The WHS Archives & Collections and Inside Story: Westport’s Bradley-Wheeler House & Cobblestone Barn end the mystery by turning a spotlight—and a video camera–on these precious assets and artifacts!

Treasures Revealed, in the main Sheffer Gallery, summarizes the size and scope of Archival vault and Collections holdings and displays selected artifacts. To share what cannot be exposed to sunlight, the Oral History Committee’s video tour of Wheeler House’s period rooms and “off limits” storage spaces, narrated by Archives and Collections volunteers, will provide unprecedented public access.

Featured artifacts include: early Westport documents, correspondence and photos; vintage garments; U.S. Coastal surveys and aerial maps showing Westport from 1838 to 1931; Mary Sherwood’s early 19th c. wedding quilt; an 1874 inkwell carved from a Bedford Estate chestnut tree;  a Rose O’Neill-designed Kewpie doll (one of 5 million sold by 1913). The idea is for Treasures to explain how these primary sources are used for Westport and Connecticut historical research, genealogical study, house history, fashion history, culinary and social history, art history, cartographic history, political history and even garden history. For example, for some of the lenticular photos of Westport “then and now”, artist Miggs Burroughs overlays a vintage photo from the Archive with a photo of the same place today.

The Westport Historical Society is open Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 12 noon to 4 p.m.  For additional information contact http://westporthistory.org or visit www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com.

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