By the ConnecticutHistory.org Team for Connecticut Explored
As an avid explorer of Connecticut’s past, you’ve no doubt surfed the Web in search of information on a favorite topic or answers to satisfy a newly hatched curiosity. Somewhere in the deluge of search returns—in between the links designed to lure you into an advertiser’s net and the articles that seem believable enough, maybe—you might even have found what you were looking for. There is, of course, quality material online, thanks to the state’s museums, libraries, archives, historical societies, and universities. But, until now, no single site has pulled it all together and offered the convenience of one-stop discovery.
ConnecticutHistory.org, a project of Connecticut Humanities in partnership with the University of Connecticut’s Digital Media Center and the Roy Rosenzwieg Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is designed to cut through the clutter. Its purpose is to provide history explorers of all stripes with a reliable, informative, and engaging gateway to our state’s stories and resources.
Click or Tap Your Way to New Connections
The human interest story, well-researched and placed in historical context, is at the heart of ConnecticutHistory.org’s mission. In this regard, we share a common vision with Connecticut Explored magazine, which, along with the image database Connecticut History Online, is one of our content partners.
In keeping with the internet’s dynamic nature and scholars’ evolving understanding of the past, ConnecticutHistory.org brings you new content and connections each and every week. Some articles are written by us, some by university scholars, and some in collaboration with experts at the many museums, historical societies, and cultural institutions throughout the state.
Visit the site’s front page to read the latest entries in an ever-expanding collection of high-quality essays and short reflections. There, you will also find “Connecticut Live,” a news aggregator that scours the Web and brings you links to the most current items about our state’s history. Or browse our archives by town, topic, or person.
Throughout the site you will also be able to connect to the real thing, the historic places and primary sources that make up the historical record. Our “Learn More” resources include images, maps, objects, ephemera, vintage books you can read online, video, and sites to visit in person or on the Web. (Video? How about footage of the airship Hindenburg as it passed over Hartford in 1936?).
Each click opens new pathways to explore. You might start with your hometown, Naugatuck, and an article about the dramatic drop in school attendance in the 1860s when the town’s industrial boom drew children into the workforce instead of the classroom. From there you might want to read more about education and will discover an entry on the first African American graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Or perhaps, curious about the history of labor in Connecticut, you decide to learn about how nostalgia for New England-style craftsmanship revived a nearly 200-year-old chair-making company in Barkhamsted.
Enjoy the Diversity of Many Collaborations
One of the core goals of ConnecticutHistory.org is to expose a broader audience to the rich resources and scholarship of the state’s history-related institutions. To accomplish this, we collaborate with organizations, large and small, to build awareness of the histories they tell through their collections as well as their online and physical sites.
Our early collaborators include the Lebanon Historical Society, Florence Griswold Museum, and Connecticut Historical Society. With them, we are bringing to light lesser-known local histories, exploring the connections between art and history, and explaining how popular objects, such as bird’s-eye view maps of Connecticut towns, connect to larger, national stories. Our long-term vision is to involve every history organization in the state so that our gateway constantly brings you new pathways for discovery and connects you to the many keepers and interpreters of our diverse heritage.
We are also collaborating with scholars and history keepers in communities that are not bound by any one institution. Our first initiative in this area involves working with indigenous communities in the state to bring online the diverse histories of Native peoples in ways that bust stereotypes and more fully reveal how, in every century, collective and individual efforts have helped create the place we know as Connecticut. We are working, too, with History Day in Connecticut and educators from the Connecticut Council for Social Studies so that the site will support lesson planning and student learning.
Expect Change in the Months Ahead
Visit ConnecticutHistory.org today and know that the site you see is just the beginning. It is the foundation we’ve readied for ongoing expansion. New user features and collaborations are in the works and will debut in the months ahead. User feedback will also shape the site’s evolution and help us to provide history lovers like you with content and connections that delight, surprise, and inform—with each click of the mouse or tap on the screen.
The ConnecticutHistory.org team includes Amy Gagnon and Kim Sheridan of Connecticut Humanities and Tom Scheinfeldt and Clarissa Ceglio, now of the Digital Media & Design Department at the University of Connecticut, and formerly with the Roy Rosenzwieg Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. ConnecticutHistory.org has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom. Support is also provided by the US Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Education and the State of Connecticut.
© Connecticut Explored. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Connecticut Explored Vol. 10/ No.4, Fall 2012.