What is on display at the New Haven Museum?
Exhibits including “Profiles,” “Factory,” and “Signs of Time” showcase New Haven’s history.
From celebrating the work of the first woman to earn a master’s degree from the College of Art to exploring the colorful history of an abandoned watch factory turned nightclub, the New Haven Museum’s current exhibitions document New Haven’s vibrant and diverse history.
“FACTORY” chronicles the post-industrial history of the building that once housed a world-famous brass clock company, while “Portraits: Ruth McIntosh Cogswell and Dorothy Cogswell” showcases the art and work of a mother and daughter from the 20th century. . These two exhibitions are expected to be on display until December 30.
“My favorite (exhibition) at the moment is ‘Factory’ because it explores how artists in the city took a vacant factory space and repurposed it into a creative collective… For decades the space has been a site for music, performances, academic discourse and academic dialogue.” “A subversive LGBTQ+ space,” Eve Galanis, an educator and researcher at the New Haven Museum, wrote for the News.
The New Haven Clock Company factory was founded in 1853 and produced millions of clocks until its demise in 1959. The abandoned building became a refuge for artists seeking space, including hosting the activist art of the Papier Mache Video Institute, the School of Architecture’s “Sex Ball” and drag shows . The space was also home to a pioneering arts community, which coexisted alongside a series of music and adult entertainment clubs that featured a diverse music scene and performance spaces.
In 2018, a developer proposed a plan to create live-work lofts for artists in the building. However, the city refused to allow residential housing in the industrial area, hindering these efforts.
“I jumped at the opportunity to talk about, document and share these histories, as secret histories often slip through the cracks and were rarely considered ‘museum-worthy’ in the past,” said Jason Bischoff-Worstle, Director of the Image Archive at UNSW. Haven Museum and its curator wrote to the news. “This exhibition is a testament to years of underground energy and creativity and the years of all our lives when nothing was impossible.”
The exhibition, “Portraits: Ruth McIntosh Cogswell and Dorothy Cogswell,” also explores the origins of New Haven’s contemporary arts community, and encourages visitors to consider the role twentieth-century women played in establishing that community’s legacy. It documents the lives of a mother and daughter who studied and studied art in the New Haven community, and includes photographs, watercolors, pencil drawings, and silhouettes of the two women.
Mary Christ, former director of collections at the New Haven Museum and current registrar of the art collection on the Yale campus, curated the “profiles” along with Katie Rosenthal, a former intern at the museum.
“Ruth (McIntosh Cogswell) was an extremely skilled silhouette artist and created hundreds of silhouettes of New Haveners and people from elsewhere in Connecticut,” Crist wrote to the News. “Visitors can view her original silhouettes in the exhibition and enjoy the way a simple, powerful glimpse of a subject can capture her personality and experiences.”
Hanging around the museum’s upper floor rotunda, which is also overseen by Christ, is the “Signs of the Times” exhibit. Hanging 19th- and 20th-century signs from local businesses, including the now-defunct Yale Brewing Company.
Another ongoing exhibition at the museum, “Form and Function: Decorative Arts in the Gallery,” showcases a variety of historical design and decorative arts collectibles. Objects ranging from Baroque furniture to mid-century modern designs are categorized into thematic collections: politics, childhood, business and eclectic homes.
“From Clocks to Lollipops: Made in New Haven” also explores the history of the New Haven company. Curated by museum consultant Elizabeth Pratt Fox and featuring more than 100 advertisements, trade cards, photographs, and other objects, this exhibition explores the local production of consumer goods since New Haven’s colonial days.
In addition to these distinguished exhibitions, the museum’s permanent collection includes a wide range of art, memorabilia and artifacts from New Haven’s colonial period to contemporary periods. The museum also hosts a variety of events aimed at encouraging public engagement with the city’s ongoing historical record.
Cynthia Riccio, who recently joined the museum staff as director of programs and planning, was drawn to the museum’s connections and working within the New Haven community. She said she plans to enhance these efforts in her role.
“We have a program on December 3 called ‘A History of the Victorian Dollhouse,’ followed by a tea party and a private tour of the museum’s Levi’s Dollhouse. We are partnering again with Peabody on a program for MLK Day on January 14 and 15 and are looking for programs in February with Connecticut Explored and The Yale & Slavery Project, Lunarfest with Yale-China, and a recent book by Eric J. Dolan, author Riccio wrote for the News: “Piracy in the American Revolution.”
The museum is open to the public from Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays from 12 to 5 pm