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COMMISSION ON CULTURE AND TOURISM ANNOUNCES RE-OPENING OF FOUR STATE MUSEUMS

Budget Cuts Forced Closings Last Year; $3 Million Bond Enables Rebirth

(HARTFORD, CT) - Four state museums that were forced to close last year due to budget cuts re-opened today under the direction of the Commission on Culture and Tourism and will be open to the public through the weekend.

Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine in East Granby, Henry Whitfield State Museum in Guilford, the Prudence Crandall House in Canterbury, and the Sloane-Stanley Museum in Kent all opened their doors today. Each site will be open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and each will have its own admission charges.

"Connecticut has renewed its commitment to these important heritage sites," said Jennifer Aniskovich, executive director of the Commission on Culture and Tourism. "We thank Governor John G. Rowland and the General Assembly for showing leadership and vision in committing $3 million in this year's bond act for the restoration and stabilization of these historic structures."

The four museums are now administered by the Commission on Culture and Tourism. Created by the General Assembly in 2003, the commission is designed to identify, preserve, strengthen, and promote Connecticut's cultural and tourism industries in order to enhance the quality of life for its citizens, create a destination for travelers, and contribute to the reputation and economic vitality of the state.

The re-opening of these four museums is part of a month of celebrations of culture and tourism. On June 15, the Governor's Arts Awards will be presented at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, produced in conjunction with the Greater New Haven Arts Council. On June 9, the Commission on Culture and Tourism awarded 101 grants totaling $183,500 to arts, historic, tourism and film programs throughout the state. And the 17th Annual Tourism Unity Dinner at the Marriott Hotel in Windsor on June 3 honored individuals who made significant contributions during the past year.

"We look forward to a new era working together with partners in the tourism and heritage industry to offer expanded programs and educational opportunities the public," Aniskovich said.

Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine is the state's oldest prison. Modern day visitors can tour the dank tunnels of the early 18th century copper mine where over 800 inmates were confined between 1773 and the prison's closing in 1827. For the first time, visitors have the opportunity to see the unrestored mid-18th century home of its first prison warden, John Viets, on the last Sunday of every month. Exhibits in the surviving guardhouse interpret copper mining and prison history including its popularity as a tourist attraction in the early 20th century.

The Henry Whitfield State Museum, Connecticut's oldest house, celebrates its 100th anniversary as a state museum this year. The unusual stone structure was built in 1639 as the home of the Rev. Henry Whitfield, a founder of the town of Guilford. A nine-foot bronze statue representing Henry Whitfield now greets the public by the door of the Visitor Center where the special exhibit "Bicentennial Beacon: Faulkner's Lighthouse, 1802-2002" is on view until Dec. 14. The museum also includes an important collection of 17th and 18th century furniture and local artifacts.

The Prudence Crandall House offers a permanent exhibit on its namesake, who opened a school in her house in Canterbury for free African American girls in 1833, the first in New England. There are also several changing exhibits on view: "Equity Under the Law? The Ongoing Struggle for Equal Opportunity," "Canterbury Celebrates Three Hundred Years, 1703-2003" and "To Get a Little More Learning." Prudence Crandall has been recognized as a Connecticut State Heroine for her courage in the face of strong opposition.

Finally, the Sloane-Stanley Museum in Kent showcases the extensive collection of hand tools assembled by artist and author Eric Sloane (1905-1985). A small gallery displays examples of Sloane's art work and visitors can also see a recreation of the artist's studio. The remains of the Kent Iron Furnace (1826-1892) are also on the property, a relic of the once-thriving Housatonic Valley iron industry. A diorama and exhibit in the museum explains the process of making iron.

The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism is located at One Financial Plaza, 755 Main Street, Hartford, CT. 06103. For more information, call (800) 411-1312 or (860) 566-4770.

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Contacts:

Jennifer Aniskovich, (860) 566-4770
Ann Harrison, (203) 624-4151

 

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