The mission of the Shelton Historical Society is to preserve elements of the community’s history in order to create lasting and meaningful connections between Shelton’s past, present and future generations through education, maintaining a museum with its collections, and providing a voice in the community regarding matters of historical significance.
Shelton Historical Society, a vital institution that serves a regional audience of over 2,000 visitors annually, operates Shelton History Center, a one acre site that contains the c. 1820 Brownson House, the c. 1860 Wilson Barn, the 1872 Trap Fall Schoolhouse, and three other outbuildings. The Brownson House is interpreted to reflect 1913 and the life of rural New England farmers. The Wilson Barn contains the nationally award winning exhibition 3 Centuries of Shelton: From Farming to Industry and Beyond. Buildings are open to the public during regularly scheduled hours, by appointment, or through group tours.
The Society accomplishes the goals of the mission through various methods which include, but are not limited to:
The SHS has developed enrichment programs for all grade levels. The second and eighth grade programs have been incorporated into the curriculum of the Shelton School system. Teacher workshops have been conducted and pre and post visit materials have been prepared and distributed.
The fulfillment of the Society's mission is enhanced through the work of part-time staff and volunteers. These dedicated individuals provide support in all departments, assisting with everything from administrative duties, cataloging of artifacts and library materials, teaching educational programs, and coordinating special events.
1. The Shelton Historical Society initiated the long term goal of reinterpreting the Brownson House to 1913. This period, rarely documented in Connecticut, was a key point in Shelton’s and the country’s past. Visitors will be able to explore such topics as immigration, the formation of labor unions and their impact on local and national industrial development, women’s suffrage, and technological improvements in agriculture. The room decor has been completed and the interpretation will be unveiled in 2017, but plans for accompanying educational components are underway.
2. The Society was one of 25 historical organizations in Connecticut selected through a competitive application process to participate in the pilot program of STEPS-CT (Standards and Excellence Programs for History Organizations) presented jointly by Connecticut Humanities and Connecticut League of History Organizations. The curriculum, developed by the American Association for State and Local History and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, sets national standards for museums like ours. The two-year program shows organizations and their Boards how to assess, establish or improve policies, procedures and practices for institutional advancement. The Shelton Historical Society has achieved basic National Certification in all units: Audience; Interpretation; Mission/Vision/Governance; Collections; Historic Structures and Landscapes; and Management and the silver level in two of them: Historic Structures and Landscapes; and Collections.
Goals for 2017
2. Increase endowment fund, individual and corporate memberships, and community support.
3. Plan educational components to dovetail with the new interpretation of the house.
The Shelton Historical Society’s most pressing needs are:
1. Funds to increase staff hours to continue to assess and catalog artifacts and documents in the collection of the Society.
2. Funding for materials to complete the reinterpretation of the Brownson House as well as the research and writing of educational materials to support the new interpretation.
3. Recruitment and training of volunteers in order to expand the educational and adult programs and to assist with artifact handling and cataloging.
4. Modification of educational programs for elementary and 8th grade classes to coordinate with the state Social Studies framework that was adopted in 2015.
5. Complete the reinterpretation of the Brownson House so that it can be open to the general public after having been closed due to water damage. This includes details, ephemera, and hands-on activities for each room to illustrate the lifestyle of the early 1900's.
The Shelton Historical Society is fortunate to have its attractive Shelton History Center campus with its six buildings and dedicated people who bring enthusiasm and professionalism to the organization. It has built respected curriculum-based educational programs and brought them to a school community that joins its nationwide counterparts in stressing science, technology and math to the detriment of Social Studies. To be relevant to today’s students and their schools’ needs, we emphasize science and technology themes within the context of local and national historical trends. After all, modern technology once consisted of the typewriter and telephone instead of the computer and the ubiquitous smart phone. One of our board members, a school administrator, has begun a grass roots movement to demand that State standards require more in the Social Studies curriculum. The Shelton Historical Society agrees and the movement has gained the attention of key scholars and legislators.
A 14’ long toboggan, a patched and repaired 1800’s work dress, a yellow silk ball gown worn to President Cleveland’s inauguration, a series of letters from an informant hired by a factory owner to determine union activity, and a restored horse-drawn carry-all that transported 1920’s children to school are some of the truly special items in our collection that speak to specific moments in local history but reflect the broader national views. These artifacts teach and inspire us all; they should be collected, protected, and interpreted to enrich and enlighten our community’s citizens. Providing a safe environment is a fundamental responsibility of all heritage institutions and those who care about them.
Caring for the collections and the historic structures that house them is a monumental task for the part-time staff, the Board of Directors, and the volunteers who support them. Maintenance of the 19th century buildings is inherently difficult and expensive if we are to respect their architectural integrity. It is a challenge to create programs and exhibits to appeal to visitors while respecting the structures and their contents at the same time.
If we are to continue to save and share our heritage for generations to come, all of this must be continued during difficult and uncertain economic times.
An historian wrote, “A community that forgets its past loses its soul.” That phrase sums up why the Shelton Historical Society needs to exist and to flourish. Adults and children alike have lost touch with their roots in the city. It is our goal of providing windows into Shelton’s past and to preserve what we can of the past for future generations to enjoy. Our school programs are incorporated into the Social Studies curriculum. They are recognized state wide for their effectiveness in bring history alive. Kids do get a feel for how hard life was 100 years ago as they turn the crank for 20 minutes to churn butter or hoe a row of beans in our tiny garden or wash clothes by hand.
In 2012 the Society took a giant step toward bringing the organization up to national standards for historical societies by participating in the STEPS program. We are one of a small number of societies invited to participate in the multiyear training program. The program lays out the goals, procedures and methodologies needed to reach and maintain these national standards. The process has given the entire Board and staff a renewed sense of purpose and pride in our organization.
The Society has an objective of adding new docents who will help with the education programs as well as lead tours of the History Center grounds and structures (Brownson House, barn and museum, school house, carriage house, and other buildings). Training for new docents begins in April. Additional volunteers will allow the History Center to be open more frequently.
And like all small historical societies and museums there is the constant need for funds to maintain our spaces and provide additional services to the Shelton community.
While the Shelton Historical Society primarily serves as a repository of historic elements from the City of Shelton, visitors from other places are welcome; they have included tourists from Japan, researchers from Qatar, and genealogists from California, among other places. Students from area and regional schools are able to take advantage of the curriculum-based educational programs that emphasize national trends through a local lens.
Ms. Tate has directed all aspects of the Shelton Historical Society since 1997 including the installation of its permanent exhibit in the Wilson Barn and coordinated aspects of the restoration of the Brownson House. Managing volunteer staff, designing and conducting educational programs, fund-raisers, and marketing initiatives are all in a day’s work.
Since the inception of the educational programs for intermediate school students approximately 16 years ago, the Shelton Historical Society has enjoyed a collaborative relationship with the Shelton Public School system, welcoming all 8th and 2nd grade students for age-appropriate programs each year. Shelton High School requires volunteer hours for their students which can be fulfilled at our facility. We have mentored developmentally and/or emotionally disabled students in a work experience program.
The monthly book discussion group partners with the Plumb Memorial Library to obtain books for its participants and uses the conference room at the Huntington Branch Library for the meetings. Attendance is growing for the Shelton Reading Circle, in existence for fifteen years. This year we will be initiating an experimental program with the children's librarian to present programs in the Trap Fall School during the summer.
Professional development opportunities offered by the Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO), Connecticut Humanities, and the American Association for State and Local History are attended by staff. Information is shared with area historical societies including Seymour, Derby, and others in the region. We have presented workshops at the New England Museum Association, CLHO, and for educators from Fairfield and New Haven counties in a Teaching American History initiative with Yale University and the Gilder-Lehrman Ctr.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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