By SHERIDAN ROY
After a busy year, the Southington Historical Society opened its doors to the public for a reception on April 29, introducing several new exhibits.
“We have been adding to our collection and putting a lot more artifacts out on display for viewing,” said board of directors president Lisa Jansson. “We’ve seen an increase in members and in donations, which is great. This museum offers a great opportunity for residents to come and learn about their history.”
Jansson said it is not uncommon for the historical society to field calls from out of state with people researching decedents of their families.
“We do the best we can to help people in their research,” said Jansson.
Over the past year, the board of directors have been volunteering many hours of their time to work on renovations, new programs and offerings, and increased outreach.
Renovations within the historical society building have required several volunteer hours. The society recently acquired the lower level of the building, which was formerly used by another organization. Before the space could be utilized, however, there was much work to be done.
“There was visible mold and water damage, crumbling walls…” said town councilor Chris Poulos, the liaison between the council and the historical society. “It was not a safe area.”
Board members, public works staff and volunteers worked to seal up the walls, tear up the floors and clean out the space. Through fundraising efforts, the society purchased a dehumidifier to keep the area dry.
“It was a tremendous effort to transform the basement,” said Poulos.
The historical society is leased from the town for about $1 per month, so the town is responsible for maintaining the building. However, the society is responsible for funding all of the work.
“They are taking this growth very seriously, and there is a heavy fundraising effort in place,” said Poulos. “This was my first assignment as a town councilor and it’s been a real positive experience. I am so impressed with the energy of this team.”
The basement space, once complete, will be used for meetings, storage, sorting and archiving. Currently, board meetings are held monthly on the upper floor and require exhibits to be pushed to the side to make room for tables and chairs.
“It’s kind of a pain,” said Jansson. With the new space, exhibits can expand. Jansson said eventually the society will offer a reference library, as well.
Last year, the society began offering free appraisals. Jansson said that program not only raised interest and brought people out to the museum, but also increased donations of artifacts. Often times, after items were appraised, those items would be donated to the museum.
The appraisal program will return in the fall. Programs chair Walter Grover said the summer season is quiet at the historical society, which will give them time to work on rehabilitation.
During the fall, Grover said the historical society will partner with the Barnes Museum and bring in a paranormal investigation team to spend the night in the building and search for any paranormal activity, then reveal it to the public.
The historical society will also hold its annual tag sale which aids in fundraising efforts, and will be working on a Veterans Day program in November.
To learn more about upcoming events, visit www.southingtonhistory.com or call (860) 621-4811.