Published: September 22, 2015
HADLEY, MASS. — In 1985, a major exhibition of Connecticut River Valley scholarship took place at Hartford’s Wadsworth Athenaeum. The exhibition and catalog, The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley, was the culmination of several years of footwork exploring collections in more than 70 small museums, historical societies and private homes up and down the river.
Thirty years later, the originator of this undertaking along with several scholars who have focused their research on Connecticut River Valley culture for and since this exhibition are coming together in “The Great River Redux,” kicking off on Saturday, October 24, at 1 pm, with a presentation on the original exhibition by William Hosley, along with a look at some objects from the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum’s collections.
Hosley’s talk will be followed by a roundtable discussion with some of the valley’s leading scholars, including Kevin Sweeney, Marla R. Miller, David Glassberg, Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Lisa Brooks and William Flynt. The round-table will address the question “What is on the horizon for our understanding of the Connecticut River Valley now?” Both programs will take place in the corn barn of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, and are open to all. Seating is limited.
Hosley’s “The Great River Revisited: Three Centuries of Connecticut Valley Art & History” surveys the people, places and things that figured prominently in the cultural and artistic life of the Connecticut Valley. This richly illustrated program explores aspects of regional history through the study of gravestones, architecture, household furnishings and cultural industry. These objects demonstrate the Valley’s transformation from a provincial agrarian culture to the vanguard of the Nineteenth Century’s high-tech industrial revolution and offer insights into the people who owned them.
The lecture revisits the themes and materials presented in the award-winning “The Great River” exhibition while providing further insights into the industrial transformation that occurred after 1840. In 2014, a New York arts publication cited that exhibition on a list of 100 milestones in 150 years of American arts and preservation. It was the largest and most intensively researched exhibition ever mounted
William Hosley, the principal of Terra Firma Northeast, is a cultural resource development and marketing and communications consultant, social media expert, historian, writer and photographer. He was formerly director of the New Haven Museum and Connecticut Landmarks, where he cared for a chain of historic attractions throughout Connecticut.
Prior to that, as a curator and exhibition developer at Wadsworth Atheneum, Bill organized major exhibitions, including “The Great River”; “The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America,” 1990; “Sense of Place: Furniture from New England Towns,” 1993; and “Sam & Elizabeth: Legend and Legacy of Colt’s Empire,” 1996.
The Round Table to follow will include celebrated Valley historians whose research and intellectual focus encompass the world of women, Native Americans, African Americans, architecture, environmental history and material culture of the Connecticut River Valley during the Eighteenth–Nineteenth Centuries.
Their discussion will press beyond “The Great River” exhibition to reflect on what it accomplished for material culture studies and the history of place, and to recognize the concerns and history left out of that telling. Their exchange of ideas will bring focus to people’s changing understanding of the Connecticut River Valley.
Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum is at 130 River Drive (Route 47). For information, www.pphmuseum.org or 413-584-4699.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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