Wilton Historical Society Rooms

Historical Society RoomsIt looks just the way you think a place like this should look – several rooms filled with fascinating objects placed in carefully arranged displays throughout; the walls lined with glass-fronted cases holding smaller and more fragile treasures, each meticulously labeled in fading ink in a precise hand.

Historical SocietyThere’s an old sleigh, and pieces of farm equipment; an early bicycle with an enormous front wheel; a model of the old town meetinghouse, long ago burned in a fire; a collection of dresses and other clothing from a century or more ago; old rifles and a military uniform from the mid-1800’s; bits and pieces of Civil War paraphernalia and a doctor’s surgical kit from that same era, looking more like the props from a contemporary slasher movie than the tools of healing they once were. 

Historical SocietyThe walls are covered in old photos; books, papers, old stereopticon cards, more photos and other documents fill cabinets and boxes stuffed in every corner and under every table in the place.  Rightly enough, these rooms and their contents occupy what is basically an attic space, since collections like this are themselves reminiscent of a trip to the attic in Grandma’s house – except in this case, the treasures are cared for, kept cleaned and dusted, filed away in acid-free wrappings and carefully documented.  Groups of what were once ordinary household objects to which our ancestors would not have given a second thought, as mundane and ubiquitous to them as perhaps a cell phone or an iPad are to us, are now objects of fascination, wonder and speculation – what exactly was that thing with the hook on the end of it used for, anyway?

Historical SocietyOur rural farming past, as well as our mill town heritage is here for all to see.  Our place as cradle of the arts is on display here as well, with cases of books by Wilton authors side-by-side with wooden farm implements.  Few people know, for one example, that Wilton was home to one of the most famous and widely-read children’s book authors of the mid-19th century, Jacob Abbott, whose family donated the core of what is known as the Rollo Farm Collection, named after Jacob’s farmstead in town.  The Farmstead took its name from the principal character in Jacob’s books, the young boy Rollo whose adventures both at home and abroad were chronicled in dozens of books from the 1850’s onward, books that were still being read by new generations of children well on into the early 20th century. 

The Wilton Historical Society, the stewards of this wonderful treasure trove of the Town’s past, shares care and custody of the collection with the Town Library, in which the collection is housed.  The Historical Society rooms, on the second floor of the Gregg Free/Wilton Public Library, are open to the public, free of charge, on Thursday afternoons from May to October. NOTE: Library is temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

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