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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 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. as of May 3

Louise Van Tartwijk, Museum Director
Stephen Bartkus, Curator gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net
Marj Vitz, 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

    Invitation for Washington Friends of Music | Special Program: the Flood of '55 | Calling All History Detectives! |


    Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr
    May 3 to October 31, 2015

    This retrospective exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Horace Mann School's John Dorr Nature Laboratory in Washington and the 75th anniversary of the Dorr Foundation. Nell Dorr photographs and artifacts from the Massillon Museum in Ohio, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Texas, as well as from the community are featured in this show. New touch screen technology has been incorporated into the exhibit allowing visitors to watch friends and descendants share their stories about Nell Dorr and the lasting impact that she made on their lives and our town. Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr is a traveling exhibition organized by the Massillon Museum. The exhibit and program series has been made possible by a grant from the Dorr Foundation.

    Nell Dorr, celebrated photographer and Washington resident from 1955 until her death in 1988, is best known for her soft-focus depictions of motherhood, family, and children. She first gained notice for her 1934 exhibition at Delphic Studios in New York City, Famous Men, which included images of Carl Sandburg and the man who would become her husband, inventor John Van Nostrand Dorr. Her lifelong dear friend, the actress Lillian Gish, provided entree into the world of well-known individuals.

    The other side of Dorr's artwork features more imaginary settings, children as fairy-like creatures in beautiful natural settings-sometimes mangrove swamps in Florida, other times New England woodlands. Later she created abstract photograms in her darkroom, creating imaginary scenes often with just the light of a kitchen match to expose the images.

    Dorr is best remembered for her images of mothers and their children as recorded in her 1954 book, Mother and Child. A year after the publication of Mother and Child, Dorr was included in Edward Steichen's landmark photography exhibition, The Family of Man, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She was also one of ten artists included in a 1983 exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. that featured great women of photography.

    In addition to two editions of Mother and Child, Dorr published five other books: Mangroves: Verse and Photographs (1933), In a Blue Moon (1939), The Bare Feet (1962), Of Night and Day (1968), and Life Dance (1975). In 1955, Dorr and her friend, the well-known children's author Tasha Tudor, created a film, The Golden Key.

    The exhibit can be seen during normal museum hours until October 31, 2015. For more information, call 860-868-7756 or email gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net.

    Related Special Events & Programs Include:
    Tour of the Dorr Nature Laboratory | Lecture on the History of Photography | Women Photographers Film Series | Juried Photography Competition | Women in Photography: A Roundtable | Photographer's Portfolio Review | Lecture on Nell Dorr | Photograph Appraisal Day | Art Themed Washington Cemetery Tour and more! Additional event information will be posted here as details become available.

    Walking Tour of John Dorr Nature Laboratory
    Saturday June 13, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. at the Gunn Museum

    Registration is required to attend this free program as seating is limited to 14 people. Call the Gunn Museum at 860-868-7756 to register.

    Glenn Sherratt, Director of the John Dorr Nature Laboratory, will lead a walking tour of the campus as part of the 11th Annual Connecticut Open House Day, a one day celebration of the state's fascinating world of art, history, film and tourism, with over 200 organizations throughout Connecticut opening their doors and offering special programs.

    The John Dorr Nature Laboratory, in Washington, Connecticut, is one of the four campuses of the Horace Mann School, an independent day school in New York City. In 1964, Nell Dorr gave the school 83 acres of land in memory of her husband, John Dorr. The Dorr Nature Lab, an LEED Gold, energy-conserving facility, is now comprised of 275 acres and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

    The idea of an outdoor campus was the inspiration of Dr. Mitchell Gratwick, long-time head of school at Horace Mann, and John Dorr, a personal friend of Dr. Gratwick. Moved by the ancient Greek adage "character is worth", Dr. Gratwick believed that it was the duty of schools to provide experiences inside and outside the traditional classroom, that nurture a sense of personal worth and responsibility, and an appreciation of the natural world.

    The Dorr Laboratory is a place that uses the rhythm of the seasons to help students from second grade through high school explore changes in themselves and the world around them. This setting becomes a medium for students' self-discovery, and through which they can examine their relationships with others, and study the natural environment in growth enhancing ways.

    Meet at the Gunn Museum at 9:30 a.m. for a guided tour of the exhibit "Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr". At 10:00 a.m. a bus will bring participants from the Gunn Museum to the Dorr Nature Laboratory for a one hour walking tour of their campus buildings and grounds. Participants will learn about the history of the Dorr Nature Laboratory and the diverse activities that take place there. The bus will bring participants back to the Gunn Museum by 12:00 p.m. The tour will take place rain or shine.

    The History of Photography
    Tuesday June 30, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.

    Bill Quinnell, retired professor and director of the Photography Program at Western Connecticut State University, will give a free presentation on the history of photography from its inception in 1827 to 1905, in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library.

    The history of photography has roots in remote antiquity with the discovery of the principle of the camera obscura and the observation that some substances are visibly altered by exposure to light. As far as is known, nobody thought of bringing these two phenomena together to capture camera images in permanent form until around 1800, when Thomas Wedgwood made the first reliably documented although unsuccessful attempt. In the mid-1820s, Nicéphore Niépce succeeded, but several days of exposure in the camera were required and the earliest results were very crude. Niépce's associate, Louis Daguerre, went on to develop the daguerreotype process, the first publicly announced photographic process, which required only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed results. It was commercially introduced in 1839, a date generally accepted as the birth year of practical photography.

    Bill Quinnell is a professional photographer and was the head of the Photography Program in the Art Department at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, where he was employed for 33 years before his retirement in 2003. Bill has a MFA in Photography from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Among Bill's many interests are boxing and boxers, which he spent four years documenting through his photography in the early 2000s. He is presently the owner of Quinnell Photographic Studios in New Milford and specializes in shooting weddings.

    The exhibit "Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr" will be open for viewing one hour before the lecture, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

    Celebrating Women Photographers Film Series

    In support of Gunn Memorial Museum's current exhibit "Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr", a film series entitled Celebrating Women Photographers will be shown. The screenings will be Mondays at 1:00 p.m. in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Memorial Library.

    Nell Dorr was one of the most spiritual and empathetic photographic artists of the twentieth century. Each of the four films vividly highlights the spirit and creativity of other female photographers.

    One hour before and after each screening in the Library's Wykeham Room, the Nell Dorr Photography exhibit will be open for viewing in the Gunn Memorial Museum where refreshments will be served. For more information about this film series, please contact Margaret Ferguson at 860-868-7586 or gunnprograms@biblio.org.

    Photograph by Nell Dorr

    The Gunn Museum's Black & White Photography Competition

    On Exhibit in the Library's Stairwell Gallery through September 19

    The Gunn Museum's Black & White Photography Competition will be selected by a panel of judges, and hung at the Gunn Library's Stairwell Gallery August 8 to September 19, 2015. Awards will be announced at the opening and a solo show, in the Stairway Gallery, with be offered to the first-place winner. The judges are Wendy Carlson, Judith Petrovich, and Kathryn McCarver Root. Call the museum at 860-868-7756 for more information.

    Wendy Carlson is a Connecticut-based writer and photographer whose award-winning editorial work has been published in a variety of national magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Town and Country, Bon Appetit, Traditional Home, Renovation Style, Victoria, VW Driver, Yankee and others. Her corporate work includes clients in the fields of medicine, health, education and green living. Wendy has traveled to Russia to document the work of American medical teams for Healing the Children, and photographed the Irish countryside from the back of horse. In the United States, she founded 50 Women, an interactive photo exhibit on women cancer survivors that is being published into a book. She is also working on "Lives Well Lived," a project documenting aging in America.

    Judith Petrovich is a Washington, Connecticut photographer who holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of Illinois. She studied at the International Center for Photography in New York City from 1978-81. Judith started working as a photo journalist for The Litchfield County Times newspaper in 1986 and left as Chief Photographer in 2002. Presently, she is a free-lance photographer. Her works have been shown locally at the Washington Art Association, New Arts Gallery 10th Anniversary Show, the Paris-New York-Kent Gallery, and the Minor Memorial Library Gallery.

    Kathryn McCarver Root is a gallerist and dealer specializing in fine art photography. McCarver Root opened KMR Arts in Washington Depot, Connecticut in 2007. The gallery showcases both vintage and contemporary photography from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, presented in a non-traditional gallery environment. KMR Arts celebrated its 5th year anniversary in 2012 with a momentous exhibit of vintage prints by Diane Arbus, a hugely influential photographer known for her darkly beautiful images. KMR Arts has exhibited photography by such masters as Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Sally Mann, Elliott Erwitt, Saul Leiter, Lillian Bassman, and Horst P. Horst among others. McCarver Root gained her experience over two decades in New York City while working as a photography editor for books (Lillian Bassman, Bulfinch, Weekend Retreats, Rizzoli) and prestigious magazines (Esquire, US Weekly, and InStyle).

    Terms of Entry:

  • The medium is black and white photography.
  • Artists could submit up to three examples of their work, no larger than 18" x 24".
  • Submissions did not have to be framed, but otherwise must be mounted on stiff board and ready to hang.
  • All submissions to have name, title, contact information, and price, if for sale, attached to the work.
  • Works were to be delivered to the Gunn Museum during normal open hours, no sooner than July 23 and no later than July 31, to be eligible.
  • This filled out waiver and release to accompany the work.


    A Special Invitation to the Washington Friends of Music Patrons

    The Gunn Museum wishes to thank the Washington Friends of Music for so kindly inviting us to be a part of their 2015 summer concert series. Beginning at 3:30, before each of the four concerts, the Gunn Museum will be open and serving lemonade, iced tea and cookies on the Museum lawn across the street from the First Congregational Church.

    The Gunn Museum's current exhibit "Between Two Worlds, The Photography of Nell Dorr" is a wonderful complement to these special evenings of music. Not only was Dorr a gifted photographer, but she was also a passionate lover of classical music. She made music an important part of her everyday life and used it as an inspiration for many of her photographs. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the adjectives "spiritual" "empathetic" "ethereal," "romantic" and "other-worldly" used so often to describe her photographs, could just as easily be applied to a classical musical experience!

    We at the Gunn Museum invite you to step "Between Two Worlds" and join us for light pre-concert refreshments and to view our Nell Dorr exhibit.

    Washington Depot in August 1955; click to enlarge

    The Flood of 1955: 60 Years Later
    Wednesday, August 19 at 6:00 p.m.

    Join us in the Wykeham Room of the Library as we commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Flood of 1955 which devastated Washington Depot. The evening will start with a moment of silence for the victims of the Flood, followed by a viewing of the 10 minute 1955 film by WNBC newscaster John K.M. McCaffery showing the destruction in the Depot. Witnesses and survivors will share the dramatic stories of what they experienced 60 years ago. Participants include Michael Condon, Dolly (Peterson) Whitney, Ann (Peterson) Dahl, Richard Anderson, Charlotte Johnson, Janice (Sjonost) Burnham, Jane (Rouillion) Boyer, Ron Smith, Dolly (Golden) Varley, Harold Stoeffler, Holly (Hollister) Camp, and many more. Photographs will be on display and attendees are encouraged to bring their own Flood pictures to share. Everyone is welcome to attend and share their memories. Parking is limited; please carpool!


    Calling All History Detectives!

    The Gunn Museum Wants You To Help Us:
    find any additional information that you may have in your homes, closets, shoe boxes, barns, secret rooms, basements, attics, shoved under chairs, hidden behind old paintings, or forgotten in old steamer trunks that can help us uncover more about the life and times of: Please send us an email: gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net, or call us at 860-868-7756, if you have anything to share.

    Museum Programs at the Washington Senior Center

    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. We'll resume in the fall...

    Washington History Club

    Washington History Club at Night has been meeting on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. We 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. We'll resume in the fall...

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