Our 2018 seasonal exhibit was Two Streams & Many Industries. (It can still be seen by special appointment.) It all begins with our huge wall map pinpointing the locations of the 19 industries that flourished during the 19th century on the North and South Branches of the Pattaconk Brook. You'll find lots of "then and now" photos. You'll learn the difference between gimlets (no, not gin) and augers. There are greeting cards made by Tom Gandy at his Standard Card Co., an axe handle from Middlesex Handle Co., a Russell & Beach cast-iron bread oven door, and lots more. And what did workers get paid in those days? We've got payroll records from several of our early industries. This exhibit was fully underwritten by a donation from the late Richard Spencer.
Our award-winning, long-term exhibit, “Streams of Change: Life & Industry along the Pattaconk,” is on the second floor. The exhibit interprets the growth and evolution of Chester and how the town adapted over 300 years. This exhibit won the 2011 "Leadership in History Award of Merit for Exhibits" from the American Association for State & Local History, and the 2011 "Award of Merit for Exhibits" from the Connecticut League of Historical Organizations. This exhibit has been recently revamped with new and exciting features.
Our seasonal exhibit for 2017 was Chester Postcards & Three Chester Notables. A selection of 200+ postcards from our archives as well as from several local deltiologists (postcard collectors) showed Chester through the eyes of local photographers in the early years of the 20th century. The three notables were Judge Constance Baker Motley, Civil Rights crusader who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and others, and a federal judge, who lived in Chester for 40 years; Hugh Spencer, Chester photographer and illustrator, who lived most of his adult years in Chester with his family; and The Leatherman, a "man of mystery" who appeared in Chester every 34 days.
In 2016, the seasonal exhibit recognized some of Chester’s clubs and organizations that helped make the town beautiful, preserved natural spaces, provided scholarships, raised money for worthy causes, educated themselves and others, helping make Chester a great place to live. In 2015 we focused the exhibit on pastimes of the past - early team sports, recreation, and games and toys at home. The exhibit included interactive games for all ages.
In 2013 and 2014, the seasonal exhibits, called Over the River and Through the Woods, focused on the origins of the town’s roads and highways; the train, trolley, ferry and steamboat services that once came to town; and early bicycling.
For two years, in conjunction with the country’s 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, our seasonal exhibits focused on the Civil War. The first year the exhibit was titled Chester Voices of the Civil War, telling the story of several Chester men who went off to serve. Their letters from the battlefield to their Chester families back home brought to life the personalities, concerns, patriotism, and emotions of these men who were intimately involved in the most devastating event in American history. Beyond the Battlefield was the second year exhibit and featured a picture of life at the homefront in Chester in 1862 while the Civil War raged in other areas of the country.