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Gunn Historical Museum

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Gunn Historical Museum
5 Wykeham Road
P.O. Box 1273
Washington, CT 06793
Telephone: 860-868-7756
     Museum Hours:
Thursday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sundays 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. (through Jan. 18)

Stephen Bartkus, Curator gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net
Amy Fallas-Kerr, Curatorial Assistant

  • All of our programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise stated.
  • There is no admission charge, but donations are greatly appreciated.
  • We would be happy to help with your research, but our other commitments
        require that you make an appointment at least three weeks in advance.

  • Exhibits & Programs


    Over There: Washington and The Great War

    May 4, 2014 - January 18, 2015

    This award-winning exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War One, one of the largest and bloodiest conflicts in history, where over 70 million military personnel were mobilized around the world and more than 10 million combatants and 7 million civilians were killed, including several from Washington, CT. Over 100 men and women from Washington, and more than 150 alumni and faculty from The Gunnery served in The Great War. Students in Bart McMann's Artifacts and Archives class at The Gunnery conducted research on their school’s involvement in the war and share their findings in a section of this exhibit.

    Letters, pictures, and an interesting array of period artifacts from the museum, local families, and collectors, including Peter Tragni and Dr. Robert Jacobs, among others, are used to explore the dramatic experiences of Washington's soldiers, along with the extensive support efforts that were happening on the home front in Washington through such organizations as the Sister Susie Society, the Red Cross, the Women's Land Army, and the Home Guard. All of their fascinating stories will be shared in this exhibit and a diverse series of public programs (see below) through the year, sponsored in part by the Connecticut Community Foundation.

    Art director Chris Zaima, designer Sandy Booth, and painter Keith Templeton, along with a team of other volunteers and staff, have created another visual masterpiece. Local history will come alive as visitors step back in time and explore the lives of Washington's residents during World War One, through their own words, and the impact this war had on our small town.

    Admission to the exhibit is free, and this exhibit will be on display through January 18, 2015. For more information, call the Museum at 860-868-7756 or view www.gunnlibrary.org for more information or email gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net.

    7th Annual Washington Green Cemetery Tour, with a special World War One theme
    Friday, October 24, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

    Costumed guides will lead groups of visitors from the Gunn Museum to the Washington Cemetery where the town's departed citizens will be stationed at their gravestones to tell their tales of tragedy and triumph. Tour groups will follow a magical path of 1,000 luminaries spanning a quarter mile through the shadowy cemetery and hear the lively and dramatic stories of Washington's residents from WWI. The costumed character actors stationed at each gravestone will share their perilous tales of combat in Europe and the life of a soldier stationed in muddy, rat infested trenches; women will describe their experiences as nurses, YMCA workers, and in war relief organizations such as the Sister Susie Society; and much more.

    The tours depart from the Museum in groups of fifteen people every 10 minutes between 6:30-8:30 p.m, and last approximately 45 minutes. Numbers for the tours are handed out at the Museum starting at 6:15 p.m. A Halloween themed movie will be shown and treats will be served in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library as you wait for your tour group to depart. The Museum will also be open for viewing of the exhibit, Over There: Washington and the Great War. The cemetery is dark and cold, please bring a flashlight with you and dress warmly.

    While this event is free, donations are appreciated. The rain date is Sunday, October 26. Parking at the Gunn is limited, please use nearby lots and side streets.

    Past Programs Associated with this Exhibit:

    The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month: WWI Quilts
    Sunday, September 7 at 1:00 p.m.

    Quilt historian and lecturer, Sue Reich, will give a presentation on the background of quilts through the 1910s with an emphasis on quilt making during the World War I years and a trunk show of quilts from the era. Sue is the author of several books on quilts and she will also be conducting pre-sales for her new book, World War I Quilts.

    Sue Reich has been the head of the Connecticut Quilt Search Project for the past 10 years. She is a co-author for "Quilts and Quiltmakers Covering Connecticut", the documentation book of Connecticut quilts. In 2007, she compiled two books, Quilting News of Yesteryear: 1,000 Pieces and Counting and Quilting News of Yesteryear: Crazy as a Bed-Quilt. She lectures widely on World War II quilts, Connecticut quilts, Crazy quilts, Multitudinous Pieced quilts, and floral quilts. Her extensive collection of World War II quilts has been exhibited at the Quilter's Hall of Fame, the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oakridge, TN, and the New England Quilt Museum. She is a regional coordinator for Connecticut and Board Member of the American Quilt Study Group, she has contributed to the Connecticut Memorial Quilt, and she is a AQS Certified Quilt Appraiser.


    World War One Pigeon Program for Kids
    Sunday, September 28 at 1:00 p.m.

    A World War One pigeon program for kids will take place in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Memorial Library. The book, Fly, Cher Ami, Fly!, about the famous pigeon who helped save the "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Division in October 1918 will be read. Kids will then write their own secret pigeon messages. Live pigeons, like those used to send messages in World War One, will be present and released by the children at the end of the program.

    Pigeons have long played an important role in war. Due to their homing ability, speed, and altitude, they were often used as military messengers. Homing pigeons were used extensively during World War One. The U.S. Army Signal Corps used 600 pigeons in France alone during WWI. The pigeon named Cher Ami was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre" medal for heroic service delivering 12 important messages during the Battle of Verdun. On her final mission she delivered a message, despite having been shot, which saved about 200 US soldiers of the "Lost Battalion". Cheri Ami is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

    The exhibit, Over There: Washington and the Great War, will also be open for viewing from 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. in the Gunn Museum on the day of this event. The exhibit and associated programs are supported in part by a sponsorship grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation.

    Between the Lines - Poetry of World War I Discussion Series
    Tuesdays, September 9 through October 14 at 6:00 p.m.

    Join us for a series of World War I poetry programs entitled "Between the Lines." Discussions will be conducted on six Tuesdays, September 9 through October 14 at 6:00 p.m. in the library's historic Wykeham Room.

    2014 marks the centennial of WWI, a conflict that killed or wounded over 20 million people, changed history, and profoundly affected the art and culture of the Western world. This Great War inspired a huge outpouring of reactions in prose and verse in all generations and classes. Poets seem to have responded with particular energy to these events. These weekly discussions, led by Bowdoin Professor Emeritus John Turner, will explore a broad variety of poetry inspired by the war and its aftermath.

    While developing this program Professor Turner has observed, "What a pity we never seem to learn the fundamental lesson taught by all wars and insist on going back into the breach knowing it won't make the world a better place. Such an irony that war can produce such amazing art. Why does suffering bring out some of the best in us?"

    John Turner began teaching at Bowdoin in 1971. He received his undergraduate degree at St. Andrews University in Scotland, his M.A. from Indiana University and his Ph.D. from Harvard. His major field of research was Golden Age Spanish poetry and his thesis dealt with the figure of Icarus as an emblem of the courtly lover in Golden Age poetry. During his early years at Bowdoin, he taught and published primarily in the area of modern Latin American literature, prose and poetry. Professor Turner retired from full-time teaching in 2011 and is a resident of Washington, CT.

    Participants are welcome to join one or more of the discussions. Please register in advance to ensure adequate reading materials. Contact Margaret Ferguson at 860-868-7586 or gunnprograms@biblio.org. Copies of the readings will be available at the circulation desk one week prior to each discussion.

    Our exhibit "Over There: Washington and The Great War" will be open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before each discussion.


    World War One Artifact Appraisal Event
    Sunday, October 12 at 1:00 p.m.

    Registration is required to participate. Please call 860-868-7756 to register for this free event.

    A World War One artifact appraisal event will take place in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. Pre-registered participants are invited to bring their World War One artifacts to be evaluated by Dr. Robert Jacobs, a long-time military collector, whose items are on display in the Gunn Museum's current exhibit, Over There: Washington and the Great War, which will also be open for viewing this day. Do you have an artifact that you suspect might be from World War One? Bring it in for our experts to identify. Dr. Jacobs will answer your questions and verbally appraise items for estimated age and value. Attendees will be able to watch and listen to the other appraisals taking place in an Antiques Roadshow-type format.

    Dr. Robert Jacobs has been involved with military artifacts and history for 50 years and has an extensive collection of historical American militaria, with a specialty in World War One. His expertise runs the gamut from uniforms and insignia, to weaponry and vehicles of the Great War. He is the current president of the American Veterans Historical Museum, a nonprofit interactive museum which provides collaborative services to other museums and venues such as West Point and FDR's home at Hyde Park, NY. He has participated in reenacting WWI as part of the Great War Association and has been a guest speaker at the Retired Officers Club of Western CT and the Sherman Veterans Organization, and has lectured at New Fairfield High School. Dr. Jacobs is a practicing dentist and a part-time instructor at the UConn School of Dental Medicine.

    Museum Programs at the Washington Senior Center

    Readings from the Archives

    Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus presents coffee hour readings from the archives of the Museum on the first Monday of the month at 10:00 a.m. from October to May, in the Washington Senior Center. A paper about the history of Washington from the Museum's archive is read, related photographs and artifacts from the Museum are displayed, and attendees share their memories in a discussion that follows.

    Washington History Club

    The Washington History Club meets at the Washington Senior Center on the third Monday of the month at 10:00 a.m., typically from September to June, to discuss the history of Washington and the villages of New Preston, Marbledale and Woodville. Participants are asked to bring their photographs and objects that relate to the monthly topic for show and tell. Everyone interested in the history of our town is invited to attend the meetings and share their memories.

    The Washington Senior Center is located at 6 Bryan Hall Plaza in the center of Washington Depot and can be reached at 860-868-0735.

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