Willimantic residents raise funds to support local history museum
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 00:09
Willimantic and Windham residents gathered at historic house in Willimantic on Sunday to raise support for the Windham Textile & History Museum.
The event, the Long Timers Backyard Block Party, was the first of several fundraisers to help re-paint the old American Thread Company headquarters, where the museum resides. It featured live music and food for guests, as well as several displays with historic pictures and memorabilia.
“We don’t have a large endowment, we don’t have a foundation that’s adopted us, we don’t have regular government support,” said museum executive director Gregory Eves. “We have to do fundraisers. It’s been 25 years since our building has been painted. The paint is peeling, and if we don’t get some new paint on there soon, what’s now a cosmetic problem will become a structural problem.”
The block party was held at the home of State Representative Susan Johnson, whose house has been owned by several prominent members of the Willimantic community in the past.
Johnson’s backyard featured an exhibit sponsored by the museum, piecing together small-scale sketches of what Main Street in Willimantic looked like 50 years ago in 1963. People in attendance placed sticky notes above drawings of the buildings where they had specific memories.
The event ran from 3 to 6 p.m., and personal memories began to populate the display within minutes of the announcement of the sticky note project from museum education director Bev York. One attendee placed a note above the old theatre, remembering when tickets to a movie cost only 50 cents.
“Hours and hours went into this,” Eves said. “We’re going to collect all of this at the end and we’re going to do a later exhibit at the museum that features the information that we’ve collected from the community. We’re letting the community recreate what it remembers Main Street to be like.”
Johnson said the museum connects “all different segments” of a community that has become very diverse in recent years.
“It brings our community together in a way I didn’t think we could do in any other way,” Johnson said. “It’s a privilege to have a house like this so you’ll be able to continue, perhaps, in the way that they donated (to the community).”
While the primary focus was to raise funds for the museum, the event was also used to recognize former State Senator Edith Prague for her years of public service. Prague was given an official citation from Johnson for her service to the state and the Willimantic community. Prague currently serves as the commissioner of the recently resurrected Connecticut Department on Aging.