Litchfield History Museum

Litchfield History Museum: Hours, Address, Litchfield History Museum Reviews: 4.5/5

Litchfield History Museum
4.5
Tuesday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
About
The Litchfield History Museum invites visitors to explore the evolution of a small New England town. Furniture, historic clothing, household objects and paintings reveal Litchfield's history from its earliest European settlement to the present day. The museum's seven galleries highlight family life and work during the fifty years after the American Revolution. While in the area, visit the Historical Society's other site, the Tapping Reeve House & Law School, just down the road.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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4.5
12 reviews
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Adventure Diva
Manchester, CT1,596 contributions
Dedicated to bringing Litchfield's history to life
Jun 2021 • Solo
Litchfield is an old city with lots of stories to tell and you can learn a lot here. Went on their weekly walking tour where you found out how Litchfield came to be a beautiful Connecticut town as it is today.
Written 25 September 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

kzsull01
Windsor, CT335 contributions
Beautiful Quilts; Unique Special Exhibit About the Society and Interesting Permanent Collection; All Very Educational
Jul 2021
My husband and I visited the Litchfield History Museum on Friday, July 16, 2021. We really enjoyed the Special Exhibits, ‘Stitching Stories, Three Centuries of Litchfield Quilting ‘and ‘Antiquarian to Accredited: A Look Inside the Historical Society’. These Special Exhibits together with the Permanent Collection are all quite interesting, informative, educational and worth seeing. These exhibits are described in more detail below.

The staff member at the Admissions Desk was very friendly, polite and helpful. There was free admission to the museum at the time of our visit, which was an added bonus to us. The museum also has a very nice gift shop.

There was parking convenient to the museum on the street in front of the museum and on the side of the museum, as well as in front of the shops and restaurants across the street from the museum. Our tour of the museum took less than an hour, based on the amount of time available to us. However, we could have easily spent more time there. Our experience was like a walk back through time. We recommend a visit to this museum and hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy it as much as we did.

Special Exhibits:

The Special Exhibit ‘Stitching Stories: Three Centuries of Litchfield Quilting’ had six beautiful impressive quilts on display representing fine examples of craft, artistic expression, and the ability of the quilters to document parts of their personal histories with needle, thread and fabric. Both whole cloth and patchwork quilts were on display, each with their own story. The quilts on display had fabrics and designs that signify meaning and could be used as keepsakes to represent traditional ceremonies, such as weddings and engagements; community, such as signature and friendship quilts; memories using sentimental fabrics; and commemoration. A quilt made of leftover fabric from over 400 Covid-19 masks was included within the quilts, demonstrating a lot of creativity and the continued role of quilting as a form of artistic expression and a method of recording history.

The process of quilting was also depicted along with the uses for the quilts. The write-ups provided great information on the specific story about each quilt that was on display, so it is important to read them. The exhibit is definitely worth seeing and is quite informative and educational.

The Special Exhibit ‘Antiquarian to Accredited: A Look Inside the Historical Society' is a great behind the scenes look at many aspects of the museum, including how it operates and its guiding principles, definitely worth seeing. It is a different type of exhibit that examines the questions that shape everything that the Historical Society does as an organization, and as a place for learning and documenting the town’s evolving history. This includes what types of items the Society collects, how they are cared for and much more.

The Historical Society has evolved from being the Litchfield Historical and Antiquarian Society to being accredited by the American Alliance of Museums based on the way it serves its audiences and the standards and best practices of the museum field. The museum is guided by an interest in Litchfield’s past in order to connect that history to the present and tell the town’s story through many voices.

Details on the Historical Society as an Organization are provided, showing that all the work they do is meant to enrich the community and provide a place for learning, exploration and social interaction. Both the Mission and Vision Statements of the Historical Society are provided with its mission being to illuminate the rich and nationally significant history of the town, enabling each of us to construct meaning from the past for the present and future. The vision focuses on gathering stories and involving members of the community in the effort to document and share Litchfield’s history.

The Scope of Collections Statement, which lists what the Society collects and why it does so, covers Litchfield’s history from its incorporation as a town to the stories written today in order to document and interpret the town’s evolving history. Interesting details on the museum’s acquisitions, remaining an actively collecting institution, and both the Archive Collection and Object Collection are provided, including sections on Using the Collection; Describing the Archival Collection; and Documenting the Object Collection.

The Historical Society takes steps to ensure that their full collections remain publicly accessible, including rotating the items on display and changing exhibits annually to explore new topics; use of a research library; and use of four online searchable databases through their website. What is currently on display is definitely different from our visit a couple of years ago. Based on professional standards, Finding Aids are used to describe the Archival Collection, which includes papers, records, photographs and books, and provide an overview of the collection and how it is arranged. Every item in the Object Collection is individually documented and catalogued based on specific information requirements and then researched to record the object’s history by answering specific questions with respect to it. Additional steps of the process are followed before the item is moved to one of five different storage areas and then grouped based on specific criteria. All the processes that the Society follows are quite involved and help you develop a strong appreciation for the work that they do.

The structure of the Society’s databases is interestingly shown in a section entitled ‘What Is in Our Databases’. This includes ArcivesSpace, CollectionSpace, Bibliomation, BentoSpace and the Ledger. The contents and/or capabilities of each of these parts of the databases is also shown. The components of an object’s label are nicely illustrated in a section entitled ‘Reading an Object’s Label’. This includes what is on an Object’s Banner, including answering such questions as What am I looking at?; When was it made?; How did the museum get it?; Who made it? And information on the object’s history and why it is on display.

The process of Deaccessioning, removing items from the Permanent Collections to allow it to remain manageable and focused, is described and nicely illustrated. Interesting facts about the process are also outlined.

The value and importance of the stories behind the items in the Society’s collections and the lives they uncover is nicely depicted in a section entitled ‘Storytellers’. The stories include the personal connection a donor shared with an object. The Society asked past and present staff, volunteers, donors, and community members to choose something from the collections to display in this part of the exhibit. They then wrote the object labels to focus on their connections and experiences. These stories were quite interesting and worth reading.

Permanent Collection:

After viewing the exhibits described above we went to the galleries where the Permanent Collection is located. This collection provided a great history of Litchfield, being a patriotic stronghold and center for patriotic activity during the American Revolutionary War years. There was a section with artifacts on each section of Litchfield Village, including Bantam, Milton, Northfield and East Litchfield, all nicely done. There were also beautiful children’s clothing and accessories, furniture, musical instruments, paintings and other fine arts on display, reflecting an age of refinement in Litchfield. This was a very informative exhibit providing a good history of Litchfield, including a depiction of how Litchfield looked over 200 years ago, and even information on ‘Becoming a Cabinetmaker’, all nicely curated with detailed write-ups.

Again we recommend a visit to this museum!!
Written 20 July 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

John T
Cebu City, Philippines1,068 contributions
Always a good visit
Jun 2019 • Couples
It's been a long time since I have visited here - the exhibition style is more thematic now, but makes for an interesting tour. The collections of objects are very educational about the earlier colonial history and life in Litchfield over time. The museum itself is in a beautiful turn of the century building with tremendous stained art glass windows. The best new development was that admission is free, including admission at their sister history venue, the early colonial law school. Stand-out items are the colonial portraits, but eh truly remarkable one is the Ralph Earl landscape painting, a major rarity for American painting from that period. The thematic method of exhibition takes some of the spotlight off that item, but take a movement with it - in my mind it's one of the most significant pieces in the museum. Enjoyed the catalog review of Litchfield businesses over time. If you're visiting Litchfield, I would highly recommend a stop here.
Written 21 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

kzsull01
Windsor, CT335 contributions
A Very Nice Walk Back Through Time
Apr 2018
My husband and I visited the Litchfield History Museum on Sunday, April 29, 2018, the same day we visited the Tapping Reeve House and Law School, which was down the street. The Litchfield History Museum had three very nice exhibits addressing the social, cultural and political history and the evolution of Litchfield as a small New England town. It gave a nice depiction of Litchfield as a social, cultural and intellectual center. We found parking for this museum on the street in front of the museum, as well as in front of the shops and restaurants across the street from the museum. We visited the Tapping Reeve House and Law School first, which was down South Street and then the Litchfield History Museum, which was at the beginning of South Street. However, you could tour these museums in either order. Our tour of both museums took about an hour and a half in total, based on the amount of time available to us. However, we could have easily spent more time in each museum. We enjoyed both museums and we hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy them as well. They were interesting, informative and educational. Our experience was like a walk back through time. Also both museums offered free admission at the time of our visit, which was quite nice.

We started our tour of the Litchfield History Museum with the exhibit entitled, ‘To Weep with Those Who Weep: Mourning Practices in Litchfield’, which depicted the mourning practices of the 19th Century being influenced by the death of George Washington. Our nation’s loss of this leader caused an increase in memorializing the dead in Litchfield and the surrounding area, which is the basis for this exhibit. This was an interesting exhibit with all items on display nicely curated with good write-ups explaining them.

We then went to the exhibit entitled ‘By the Virtue of its Citizen’s: Educating a New Nation at Sarah Pierce’s Academy’, also known as the Litchfield Female Academy. This exhibit nicely depicted Sarah Pierce’s innovative approach to both formal and informal education, including a mixture of academics, needlework, drawing, painting and music and the connection the school had to the Tapping Reeve Law School, as a social and intellectual community. The needlework embroidery and watercolor paintings were very impressive in this exhibit. We really enjoyed this exhibit which was well curated with nice write-ups supporting the items on display.

Finally we went to the exhibit entitled, ‘Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town’, which provided a great history of Litchfield, being a patriotic stronghold and center for patriotic activity during the American Revolutionary War years. There was a section with artifacts on each section of Litchfield Village, including Bantam, Milton, Northfield and East Litchfield, all nicely done. There were also beautiful dresses, jewelry, furniture, paintings and other fine arts on display, reflecting an age of refinement in Litchfield. This was a very informative exhibit providing a good history of Litchfield, including a depiction of how Litchfield looked over 200 years ago, all nicely curated with detailed write-ups.

We liked this museum and recommend going to it.
Written 2 May 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
We are so glad you had a great visit! Please come back soon.
Written 3 May 2018
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Thom P
42 contributions
I came for the archives, but I enjoyed the museum too
May 2017 • Business
While conducting research on one of the church leaders in Litchfield County, I discovered a gem of an archive here. Their catalog is online, and with an email beforehand, I was able to conduct my research most efficiently in a bright cheery reading room. The museum was surprisingly good, and I even found a few things in their gift shop. Definitely worth a stop if you are living or staying in the region and want to know more about it.
Written 24 May 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hi Thom, Glad to know you found our archives useful! We are so glad you came by and enjoyed both the library and museum. Hope you return soon! Best, Litchfield Historical Society
Written 30 May 2017
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

CtFreddie
CT272 contributions
Great Collection of Ralph Earle Paintings
Nov 2016 • Solo
Only visited the Litchfield History gallery. It features an mosaic floor map of Litchfield ca 1820, several women's fashions of the 19th century, and about a half dozen Ralph Earle portraits (and one landscape!) and is worth visiting for the latter alone. Admission is free.
Written 17 November 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thank you for visiting! We are pleased to hear you enjoyed your visit and our collection. Be sure to come back and explore more!
Written 21 November 2016
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Cherinc
Morrisville, NC57 contributions
Great new exhibits
Apr 2016 • Couples
We throughly enjoyed this museum. Wonderful exhibit on local sporting and very interesting gallery of photos from a local photographer. Definitely worth a visit!
Written 16 April 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thank you for your kind review of our new exhibits! We are happy you enjoyed your visit.
Written 20 April 2016
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

StamfordBetty
Stamford, CT37 contributions
Interesting small museum
Oct 2015
We stopped here while on a fall foliage drive. It was a good place to spend an hour learning about local colonial history and looking at the exhibit of fashions from a Paris designer from 1914-1918.
Written 21 October 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

JudyLitchfield
Litchfield73 contributions
A gem of a small town museum
Nov 2014 • Friends
Litchfield's history is a rich one - predating the Revolution by decades. Lyman Beecher preached at the Congregational Church here, and Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe were born and raised here. Many prominent state and federal historical figures resided in or were educated in Litchfield, and the Museum has a fabulous collection of a variety of items, including clothing, furniture, and revolutionary war guns among other interesting pieces documenting the town's history. The gift shop has several wonderful books about the town, as well as other good quality souvenirs.
Written 14 October 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Chefnfly
Russell Springs, KY375 contributions
Local History Past & Present
Sep 2014 • Family
This is a delightful place to spend a few hours roaming the current displays they set up. The museum changes their offerings throughout the season and keeps the subjects very interesting. The staff is so helpful and courteous. They offer a variety of family activities that everyone can participate in. We once were treated to a folk singer and a very interesting story teller. It is the best place to spend a cold rainy damp day at. Always Chefnfly
Written 22 April 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Litchfield History Museum

Litchfield History Museum is open:
  • Sun - Sun 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Tue - Sat 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM


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