Planning for ‘West Hartford History Center’ To Begin Thanks to Large Grant

Noah Webster House. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society has received a $125,000 ‘Good to Great’ grant from the state.

Noah Webster House. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Noah Webster House. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

By Ronni Newton

Thanks to a grant of $125,000 from the Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development, the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society hopes to transform an area of the museum currently used for storage into the “West Hartford History Center” – a space that, according to the grant application, will be open to the public and will house “research facilities, compact and visible storage, a reading room, dedicated staff and operating hours to assist researchers, additional space for archiving community organization memorabilia, and an additional exhibit area.”

“The goal of the West Hartford History Center will be to expose more residents to the wonderful history and culture that we have in town,” Executive Director Jennifer Matos said. “The museum has an amazing collection of West Hartford artifacts that are rarely on display. The new West Hartford History Center will allow visitors to see more of those collections and have meaningful connections with our town’s heritage,” she said.

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is one of only 20 non-profits statewide to receive the “Good to Great” grant that was recently made available through DECD’s Office of Arts and Historical Preservation “to eligible organizations that promote science, art, culture, or the history of Connecticut.” Matos said the organization was one of a very few to receive the full $125,000 as well as one of a handful in the Greater Hartford area to receive the grant.

Matos said that the museum will use the grant money for the first phase in creation of a “West Hartford History Center” by examining the feasibility of turning space now used only for archive storage into a space that the community can use and enjoy.

According to Matos, West Hartford residents who will work on the project include Town Historian Tracey Wilson, NWH&WHHS architect and Board Member Dick Hughes, retired State Preservation Officer and Board Member Mary Donohue, retired State Archivist Mark Jones, and Director of Human & Leisure Services Helen Rubino-Turco.

The second phase of the project will be implementation – renovation of the existing space into the West Hartford History Center in accordance with the designs and recommendations from phase one.

A total of $1,990,386 in grant money from the state was awarded this fall. DECD Commisioner Catherine Smith, who announced the awards in a news release dated Sept. 30, 2015, said, “DECD is prioritizing funding for projects that demonstrate a clear vision of how individual sites and organizations can improve the customer experience, effectively tie together local, regional or statewide cultural assets, and promote more visitors. Our state’s commitment to assisting communities in leveraging their cultural assets is core to the new Good to Great pilot program.”

According to the release, the year-old Good to Great program is intended to “significantly enhance cultural and historic sites and the way people enjoy them.” It targets “smaller and mid-sized cultural organizations that have received limited state funding in the past.”

All of the Good to Great funds are pending State Bond Commission decision in early 2016.

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