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Gunn Historical Museum Receives $100,000 Grant

Gunn Historical Museum Director Louise van Tartwijk and Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus are pleased to announce the Gunn Historical Museum in Washington, Connecticut, has been chosen as one of the 20 recipients of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development's Good to Great Grant. Through the Good to Great Program, administered by DECD's Offices of Arts and Historic Preservation, grants are awarded to eligible organizations that promote science, art, culture, or the history of Connecticut. Good to Great was created in 2014 to fund improvements that will significantly enhance cultural and historic sites and the way people enjoy them. Specifically, the program targets smaller and mid-sized cultural organizations that have received limited state funding in the past.

Governor Malloy said of the Good to Great Grant, "Connecticut has a rich cultural history. By making these investments we are ensuring that our museums and other cultural sites remain unique, world-class places to visit and become much more compelling experiences for visitors. Connecticut is an incredible place to live and visit - and we're working hard today so that our state has an even brighter future tomorrow."

The Gunn Historical Museum was awarded the $100,000 grant to create a new permanent Museum exhibit that "Tells and Teaches the Story of Washington, Connecticut." This grant money will be used to transform the second floor of the Gunn Museum, from what is now a collections storage area, into an engaging permanent four room exhibit about the history of the town of Washington. The exhibit will begin with the story of the Native Americans who inhabited the region 10,000 years ago and include up to the present day. Some of the diverse Washington, Connecticut topics that this exhibit will feature include Tories and Patriots, slavery and abolition, immigrants, crime and punishment, the rise of the Washington Art Colony, military service, schools and education, women's rights and reformers, disasters and reconstruction, the environmental and preservation movement, business and industry, religious rights, New York Society, agriculture, tourism, recreation, and more.

"The exhibit will make use of the numerous artifacts, photographs and documents in the Museum's collection that are currently housed in storage because there is no place to display them. The goal of the exhibit is to create not only an understanding of Washington's unique history, but to generate an excitement among a new generation of people from near and far about collecting, preserving and sharing it." Said Gunn Historical Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus.

This exhibit will extend the Museum's scope into the local classrooms through the creation of special educational lessons, programs and publications in conjunction with the local school curriculum that will complement the exhibit and will be used to teach local history every year to the students in Washington's six schools.

"Each year the Gunn Museum researches and creates a new temporary exhibit. These exhibits on the first floor of the Museum highlight various aspects, different people and pivotal moments of the town's history. A permanent exhibit on the history of Washington, Connecticut, however, has never existed," explained Museum Director Louise van Tartwijk, "There is also no comprehensive written history of Washington, and the teaching of local history in Washington's schools is limited. The Good to Great Grant creates an incredible opportunity for us to fill these unmet needs."

The awarding of the $100,000 Good to Grant to the Gunn Historical Museum has come at a very important time, as the Museum has recently embarked on the path to financial and managerial independence. Since 1908, the Gunn Museum has been a part of the Gunn Museum Library and Museum. In April of this year the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum board voted to begin a transition phase that will result in the Gunn Historical Museum becoming its own self-sustaining non-profit organization within 3-5 years.

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