As a community arts and history center, the Mattatuck Museum serves broad and diverse segments of our regional audience.
Community collaborations enrich exhibits and programs and “engage the community in an understanding of its past.” Museum staff work closely with committee members to interpret and enhance community-based exhibits, such as the African American History Project Committee, the Jewish History Project Committee and the Neighborhood History Advisory Committee. These programs attract both urban and suburban residents who bring their relatives and children to learn more about their history and traditions.
The oral histories collected by the museum have documented the stories of this community in transition. More than 1,500 recorded interviews, conducted as part of the museum’s Ethnic Music project, Neighborhood History Project, the African American History Project, the Jewish History Project, the Brass Valley Labor History Project and the 20th Century Enterprise History Project have been collected by historians and community members. They offer illustrations of struggle and achievement, along with the connections and barriers that help us understand the challenges that face urban centers in suburban United States in the post-industrial economy. We believe these are important issues for the children of this area to understand, in the dramatic voice of the first person narrative of their parents, grandparents and neighbors. We believe that the stories of industrialization, de-industrialization, immigration and suburban migration contained in the museum’s oral history collections will be essential to the teaching of these themes in schools throughout Connecticut, since this kind of local archive is not otherwise available to classrooms in the state; and to the nation, since the stories of economy, community and ethnicity should be part of our national dialogue.