By SHERIDAN CYR
The Southington Historical Society is working with all hands on deck as the museum that stores and preserves history looks to keep up with modern technology and community outreach methods.
Founded by the Chamber of Commerce in 1965, it all began with a letter to chamber members asking if there was interest in forming a group that would collect and manage different aspects of the town’s history. The original historical society didn’t even have a true home at the time – they bounced back and forth from the Chamber office to the old “Just Buttons” museum, which is now the home of Art Rich Photography.
“We have a membership of about 100 people now, and 14 directors on our board,” said Historical Society president Lisa Jansson. “We just ended up with a board of a lot of active people who really want to get out in the community.”
Board member Walter Grover is the chair of the program committee, and has been working with other board members to bring to life a number of exciting programs and offerings.
“I look for programs that I think will be of interest to our community – anything from World War One to the program we do around Halloween which focuses on the history of witch trials in Connecticut,” said Grover. “We wanted to triple our membership by being more present in the community, offering more hours, and always bringing in new programs.”
Last winter, the historical society introduced a new appraisal program where locals were invited to bring in antique items and have them priced by professionals. Jansson and Grover both reported those have been highly successful, and people tend to stick around and tour the museum after.
The museum is always accepting donations of artifacts from locals that will be preserved for years to come.
“Somebody’s got to preserve history, otherwise, it just disappears,” said Jansson. “When somebody dies, and the family pulls stuff out, they may just throw it away, but it’s so important to save those things and remember them.”
Grover said locals always seem to learn something new when they visit the museum. There are a variety of artifacts including old war memorabilia, products manufactured by Southington’s many old factories, antique toys, inventions made by Southington residents, old furniture and plate ware and even Indian artifacts.
“Everybody loves stories, and our history serves as many stories of how we came to this point. It’s like a good movie,” said Grover. “You can kind of put the puzzle pieces together and see how we became our current-day Southington from our agricultural and manufacturing history.”
New board member, Alexis Izzo, is a testament of the historical society’s outreach success. At age 16, the youngest board member the historical society has ever had is giving tours of the museum, answering visitors’ questions with ease, and is heavily involved in many activities such as the annual Christmas ornament. This year’s ornament celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apple Harvest Festival.
“I always had an interest in history, and when I was at another event, I learned about the historical society,” said Izzo. She has been helping as a volunteer for about two years now. “I had inquired about volunteering, and back then, I was so shy, but interested. Now, I’m at a place I never thought I’d be.”
She continues to increase her involvement with the society, as well as with the Chamber of Commerce and the STEPS Youth Council.
“Our history in this town is so important, and many people don’t even know this building is here,” Izzo said.
Board members were excited to share that on Sept. 15, they will host their annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sept. 20, World War one reenactors from the Connecticut 26th Yankee Division will visit the museum from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
For more events, visit www.southingtonhistory.org.