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June 23, 2023

Connecticut Historical Society rebrands: ‘We don’t want to be a hidden gem’

Outlet: CT Insider

Author: Michael Walsh

June 22, 2023
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin among those marking the Connecticut Historical Society’s name change to the  Connecticut Museum of Culture and History.
Contributed photo / Connecticut Museum of Culture and History
HARTFORD — The Connecticut Historical Society will now be known as the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History.

It’s a rebrand that aligns with the shifting tides in the museum and historical field, and one that the nonprofit’s leaders hope does a better job advertising the work they do.

“For some people, the phrase historical society just isn’t relevant, just doesn’t feel modern,” said Ilene Frank, the organization’s deputy executive director and chief strategy officer. “We’ve been wrestling with whether it’s time to change our name, knowing we have this incredible legacy.”

In 2020, the nonprofit embarked on a community engagement project and began to understand that their name was starting to be an obstacle. Some, Frank said, thought because it was a historical society that memberships were required.

“It really came up that to be a place where we want the community to belong, to feel like they belong, that our name was starting to be an obstacle,” Frank said. “It wasn’t reflecting the amazing diversity of people who live in the state of Connecticut.”

And so, the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History was born — with a new logo accompanying it — and Frank said she hopes the rebrand does its job of announcing what they’re all about, because even after nearly 200 years of existence, she said there’s always someone unfamiliar with them.

“I hear people say they drive by our building all the time and they didn’t know they could come in,” Frank said. “We don’t want that. We don’t want to be a hidden gem anymore. We want people to know we are an organization that is here to work with the community and tell the stories of the people of the state, whether those stories are from hundreds of years ago or… the last 20 years. That’s why we exist: to share our state’s amazing history and culture.”

Including culture and history in the new name, Frank said, was also important to the museum’s board of trustees and other leaders.

“That’s really important to us. We see them as completely connected,” Frank said about the two words. “The way we view culture is, culture is the thing that amplifies our life, it’s our food, our traditions, our dance. All of that is connected with history. What event was happening? Who was in government? What major world event was impacting your own life? We are hoping that with this new name, we’re not just talking about founding fathers and government documents and war, we’re talking about real human beings and how we go through life.”

It also means that exhibits that can be found inside their museum aren’t just about Connecticut’s oldest history.

“People think if you’re a history museum, you have to tell a story from a year starting with a one,” Frank said. “That is starting to change. We are still collecting things from the colonial era through the 1700s and 1800s… but we are getting a lot of objects from contemporary history.”

For example, Frank said, the nonprofit was busy collecting items during the COVID-19 pandemic, including empty vaccine vials, signage and photographs.

“We were making sure we collected items and oral history about this experience, knowing that right now we may not have the perspective of what’s going to be important to historians in the future,” Frank said. “If we don’t collect it, it may not be around.”

Coming up next at the museum is a traveling Smithsonian exhibit called “¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues,” which Frank said is about Latinos in baseball. The nonprofit has added Connecticut-related information and items to the general exhibit, which she hopes attracts new and returning visitors.

“We want to invite people to revisit who we are,” Frank said. “If they haven’t been here in awhile, we invite them to come back and experience the museum in a new way.”

 

 

Original post can be found here.

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