Patios, Pools, and the American Backyard
October 30 – December 31, 2021
The suburban backyard is an American original—an invention so familiar it hardly seems invented at all. Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard explores the midcentury backyard from the rise of the suburbs and tract houses, to the beauty of postwar garden design, and the birth of the environmental movement. Filled with vintage photographs, historic drawings, and fun period advertisements, the exhibition reveals how these spaces became such an integral part of American popular culture.
Presented by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Smithsonian Gardens’ Archive of American Gardens
Lakewood Plaza, outdoor living space. Long Beach, Calif., 1950s. Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.
Votes for Women:
A Portrait of Persistence
October 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021
Ruth Carlson Horn Gallery
Celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage in the U.S. with Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence!
The story of women’s suffrage is a story of voting rights, of inclusion in and exclusion from the franchise, and of our civic development as a nation. Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, a poster exhibition from the Smithsonian, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment and explores the complexity of the women’s suffrage movement and the relevance of this history to Americans’ lives today. The crusade for women’s suffrage is one of the longest reform movements in American history. Between 1832 and 1920, women citizens organized for the right to vote, agitating first in their states or territories and also, simultaneously, through petitioning for a federal amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Based on the National Portrait Gallery exhibition of the same name, Votes for Women seeks to expand visitors’ understanding of the suffrage movement in the United States. The poster exhibition addresses women’s political activism, explores the racism that challenged universal suffrage, and documents the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibits the government from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on th e basis of gender. It also touches upon the suffrage movement’s relevance to current conversations on voting and voting rights across America.
“Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery. This project received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. The Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story, is one of the country’s most ambitious undertakings to research, collect, document display and share the compelling story of women. It will deepen our understanding of women’s contributions to the nation and the world.
Local Heroes: What’s Your Emergency?
December 6, 2019 – September 20, 2020
Ruth Carlson Horn Gallery
This family-friendly exhibition takes visitors through the story of a local Nor’easter, and how Fairfield’s local heroes, our first responders, team up to keep our communities and residents safe. Illustrations by Fairfield County artist Christine Kornacki weave together the story of a fictional nor’easter with historical photographs and artifacts from the Museum’s collection to explore what happens when the Nor’easter brings an emergency situation, and the support citizens receive when dialing 9-1-1.
Generously sponsored by NorcomCT and Fairfield Rotary.
Special thanks to the Town of Fairfield Police, Fire, and Public Works departments.
From the Ground Up: Fairfield’s Foods
October 3, 2019 – January 26, 2020
“The food you have at home grows on you and becomes more important than simply the food itself. It becomes associated with all parts of your life in a very deep way, part of your roots, your inner self.”
– Jacques Pepin (Madison, Connecticut).
The food we eat helps define us. It is woven through our cultural traditions and our local landscape, as well as into wider global economies. This exhibition will explore how local foods are important to our traditions and how they have shaped Fairfield and our region’s identity over time. Explore the kitchen with a closer look into ingredients from the farmers’ fields, the ocean, and the forest, and share your own special food memories.
Brooklawn: A Walk in the Park
August 22 – November 11, 2019
Ruth Carlson Horn Gallery
The Brooklawn neighborhood developed as an outgrowth of Bridgeport’s industrial revolution, providing a specially designed enclave for the booming city’s business leaders. Enjoy photographer Ari Burling’s luminous early morning photographs of the Brooklawn neighborhood and its unique landscape and architecture. Historical vignettes of the homes’ original owners and their businesses were featured alongside objects from the Museum’s collections, local newspapers, and maps.
Special thanks to Ari and Erika Burling and to Brooklawn Country Club.
On walls, on objects, on the human body, on paper…what does it mean to stamp your label, leave a paint stroke, sign your name, or sew a stitch?
The deep human need to leave a mark on the things we make and the places we live has been a constant throughout history, though the form it takes varies widely. This exhibition explores how people – whether quilters, silversmiths, graffiti artists or painters – leave their creative marks on their communities. Past craftspeople, leaders, and ordinary people left marks behind on their creations, demonstrating pride in their accomplishments and documenting their social connections. Contemporary artists today also seek to leave a lasting impression and even transform communities through their works of art.
With special thanks to Theodore Bresky, Frankie Frieri, John Paul O’Grodnick, Seth Kaller Inc., and Liz Squillace.
Black Rock: 375 Years of Community
May 23 – August 4, 2019
Ruth Carlson Horn Gallery
Founded 375 years ago, the neighborhood of Black Rock has tied together the communities of Fairfield and Bridgeport, while retaining its unique personality and sense of place. Through the ages of sail, steam, and rail, Black Rock has served as a beacon of ingenuity, strength, and comfort for its residents and visitors alike. Celebrate 375 years of Black Rock’s rich community history and heritage through rare artifacts and photographs – and look towards its future – in this anniversary exhibition.
Presented in celebration of Black Rock’s 375th Anniversary with the Black Rock History Committee and the Black Rock Community Council.
Alice in Museumland
November 30, 2018 – February 18, 2019
Visitors of all ages are invited to stumble down the rabbit hole into the story of Alice in Wonderland. This much-loved tale is told as an interactive experience, using nineteenth-century objects and images from the Museum’s extensive collection, with a whimsical tea party at the center of it all. Children and adults alike can follow Alice’s journey by exploring one-of-a-kind museum artifacts, including antique tea sets, stuffed animals, playing cards, and miniatures.
Generously sponsored by:
Flappers: Fashion and Freedom
July 31, 2018 – January 27, 2019
In this key moment in the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, this exhibition examines the history and social impact of fashion and its relationship to the women’s movement of the 1920s. Drawing on the Fairfield Museum’s rich costume collection, this exhibition raises questions about the relationships between the “New Woman” of the 1920s and the representations of freedom of movement, behavior, and thought that defined modern American womanhood. Presented with support from Connecticut Humanities. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Culper Ring: The Spies of George Washington
May 19-November 12, 2018
A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the Revolutionary War.
Manley’s artwork communicates the drama of espionage during the war, underscoring the challenges faced by American forces arrayed against a formidable foe. Visitors will be able to see, through the eyes of specific historical characters, the risks that both military officers and ordinary civilians were willing to take to help their cause. This exhibition explores the motivations and contributions of the spy ring, bringing to life the risks that they took to secure and transmit intelligence. Copies of the graphic novel are available in the museum shop.
An American Story: Finding Home in Fairfield County
February 8-July 23, 2018
This exhibition highlighted the experiences of refugees and immigrants who have built new lives in Fairfield County. A series of photographic portraits and biographical narratives share how eight individuals from Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Hungary, India, Rwanda, and Syria have rebuilt their lives and created a sense of home. This exhibition was created in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants.
Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Day to Night: Stephen Wilkes
April 29-June 3, 2018
Stephen Wilkes of Westport is renowned for his amazing Day to Night series, in which he shoots breathtaking iconic landscapes, portrayed from a fixed camera angle for up to 30 hours, to capture fleeting moments over the course of a full day to night. Fairfield’s Jennings beach has now joined Stephen Wilkes’ Day to Night portfolio from around the world. Jennings Beach, Fairfield, Day to Night has been generously commissioned and donated to the Fairfield Museum by the Saft family in memory of Marcia Saft, a former Board member, friend and longtime supporter of the Fairfield Museum. With the end of this exhibition, the piece is on view in our Creating Community gallery. Watch a short video about the making of Jennings Beach, Fairfield, Day to Night by clicking on the “play” button below:
December 1- February 18, 2018
Whether you love it or simple endure it, winter is a defining part of our New England experience. Winter Wonderland at the Fairfield Museum celebrates the history of some of the different winter activities beloved by generations – such as sledding, skating, and skiing. It also explores how people deal with the more “unloved” aspects of winter, such as shoveling snow and coping with blizzards.
Uncle Sam Wants You! Fairfield and the Great War
September 28, 2017 – January 21, 2018
How did government-sponsored messages about World War I affect those who lived through it? The federal government used posters, publicity campaigns, and censorship of critical viewpoints to inspire support and sacrifice – on the home and military fronts. This exhibition explored these messages and how they influenced people in the Fairfield and Bridgeport area, where war time manufacturing made the city a boom town. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: Fairfield in the 1960s and 1970s
March 31-September 17, 2017
Explore how the changing culture and politics of the 1960s and 1970s affected Fairfield and its region. Costumes from the Museum’s collection highlighted the fashion of the era, and a timeline illustrated how the key national events of these turbulent decades were echoed in the local area. Stories of Fairfielders who served in the Vietnam War and those who protested against it were both included. Selected record albums and a soundtrack represented the vital role of popular music during this era. High school and local memorabilia evoked memories of growing up in Fairfield during these years of change for the town. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Fairfield University, 1942-2017: A Proud Past, An Amazing Future
May 11-July 30, 2017
This exhibition celebrated Fairfield University’s 75th anniversary, with then-and-now photographs, sports memorabilia, and a timeline of the university’s history.
Rising Tides – Fairfield’s Coast: Past to Future
September 29, 2016-March 19, 2017
Fairfield’s coastline thrives, attracting people to work, play, and live along the shore, but rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns are changing our relationship with the coast. This timely exhibition explored our shoreline’s long history of coastal resilience, through stunning photographs, artifacts, and documents, and examined how climate change presents new challenges for the future. It won an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 2017. Click here for an online version of the exhibition.
After and Onward
January 18-February 3, 2017
This photographic exhibit displayed the strength, endurance and perseverance of the people of Fairfield, five years after Superstorm Sandy. This documentary project was a collaborative effort between the current art teachers of Fairfield and the faculty and student photographers of 2012.
Connecticut, 1940: Farms, Factories and the Photographs of Jack Delano
May 15 – September 18, 2016
In 1940 and ‘41, photographer Jack Delano (1914–1997) documented farm and city life in Connecticut for the Farm Security Administration. In rare early color photographs as well as black-and-white images, Delano captured views of Connecticut as it recovered from the Great Depression, showing views of farmers, factory workers, and commuters. Born in Ukraine, Delano emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1923 and studied art and music at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. A musician and composer as well as a photographer, Delano traveled throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico as a FSA photographer before serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he settled with his wife Irene in Puerto Rico, where he lived for the rest of his life. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Fabulous Animals: The Illustrated World of Robert Lawson
April 1 – September 18, 2016
Robert Lawson (1892–1957) had a long and distinguished career as an artist and children’s book illustrator and author. Perhaps best known for illustrations of The Story of Ferdinand and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Lawson is the only artist and author to have won both the Caldecott and the Newbery Awards. A resident of Westport, Connecticut, Lawson and his wife Marie, also an illustrator, lived at Rabbit Hill, pictured in Robert Lawson’s book Rabbit Hill (1945). The exhibition features a range of Lawson’s original drawings and paintings. Sponsored by CT Humanities; special thanks to Maureen Aron and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Look at Me! Recording and Sharing Our Selves
February 18-May 1, 2016
Today’s “selfie” phenomenon offers to opportunity to reflect on the history of how people have shared images of themselves. What was the function and use of a painted portrait, a photograph or daguerreotype, and how does it differ from a “selfie” taken on a cell phone? By examining paintings, silhouettes, early photographs, and miniatures of individuals from the Fairfield region, this exhibition considers how we have pictured ourselves over time.
Handcrafted: Artisans Past and Present
October 25, 2015–March 20, 2016
From antique furniture to sumptuous contemporary rugs, Fairfield County possesses a rich tradition of decorative arts. This exhibition highlights the diverse and talented artisans that have worked in the region in the past and the present, and explores the connection between the area’s strong history of decorative arts and present-day design trends.
Picturing the News: The Distinctive Vision of Harry Neigher and Frank Gerratana
September 10, 2015–January 19, 2016
Columnist and cartoonist Harry Neigher and photographer Frank Gerratana of the Bridgeport/Connecticut Herald portrayed and documented the news from the 1930s until the paper closed in 1974. Featuring a selection of Neigher and Gerratana’s work over four decades, this exhibition featured photographs, cartoons, sketches, and newspaper clippings exploring a range of local and national issues in entertainment, politics, and the arts.
Fairfield’s Fairways: 120 Years of Golf
June 11-October 11, 2015
This exhibition celebrated Fairfield’s long history of golf over the past 120 years, from the founding of the Brooklawn Country Club when golf first emerged as a national obsession in the 1890s, to the Country Club of Fairfield, created during golf’s first “golden age” and the Patterson Club following World War II. As time went on, public golf courses – including Fairchild Wheeler, among the nation’s earliest municipal courses – opened up the sport to others in the community. The exhibition highlighted notable golfers from the area, including Georgianna Bishop, Julius Boros, Heather Daly-Donofrio, J. J. Henry, and Gene Sarazen. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Fashion and Fantasy: 250 Years of Wedding Dresses
February 19-May 31, 2015
With beautiful wedding gowns spanning several centuries—from 18th-century silk and military-inspired Civil War dresses to the ubiquitous white dress of today—this exhibition looked at how fashions and the traditions of “the big day” have changed over time, comparing the relatively simple rituals of the past with the more elaborate wedding events of today.
Mobilizing the Home Front: Posters from World War II
January 16-May 10, 2015
In honor of the 70th anniversary of VE Day, this exhibition features World War II posters that were used to raise support for the war effort at home. Part of the federal government’s overall propaganda effort, the posters incorporated strong messages and striking visuals in order to enlist every American, soldier or civilian, to help win the war. Some of the country’s top artists and illustrators lent their talents to persuade Americans to increase their productivity in factories, buy war bonds, and enlarge their wartime responsibilities. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
The Pequot War and the Founding of Fairfield, 1637-1639
October 15, 2014 – February 8, 2015
This exhibit presented the story of the Pequot War in 1637, which led to Fairfield becoming established as an English settlement in 1639. The Pequot War was New England’s first major conflict, involving thousands of combatants in dozens of battles in Rhode Island and Connecticut, with the final English victory won in a swamp here in Fairfield in 1637. The exhibition featured unique items including the sword of John Mason, leader of the English forces during the war; an original copy of John Underhill’s Newes from America containing a first-hand account of the war; and a helmet and matchlock gun from the period. A section on current archaeology undertaken by the Mashantucket Pequot Museum’s Battlefields of the Pequot War project explained how we are still gaining new insights into this epic conflict.
Accused: Fairfield’s Witchcraft Trials
September 25, 2014 – January 5, 2015
In 17th century New England, religious beliefs and folk tradition instilled deep fears of magic, evil, and supernatural powers. How else to explain unnatural events, misfortune and the sudden convulsions and fits of local townspeople? Through a series of graphic novel-style panels, artist Jakob Crane retells the dramatic story of the witchcraft cases that took place in the Fairfield area in the 1650s and 1690s, providing a creative retelling of these troubling events in the community’s early history. Learn how neighbors, magistrates, and colonial leaders treated accusations of witchcraft and why the outcome of Fairfield’s witchcraft trials in 1692 was so different from what happened in Salem at the same time. The panels are available to purchase in a booklet here, or at the museum shop.
Growing Up in Fairfield: Memories and Milestones
July 3-October 2, 2014
What was it like to grow up in Fairfield in past generations? How has childhood changed over time?This exhibition looked back at the experience of growing up from the 1940s through the 1980s, focusing on play, school, work, and special occasions. To provide more historical perspective, the exhibition also includes items from the 1800s, showing how nineteenth-century children’s lives compare to those we remember. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
Fairfield’s Rockin’ Top Ten
January 25-April 8, 2014
Fairfield’s Rockin’ Top Ten celebrated the musical legacy of the Fairfield region, highlighting a diverse set of ten musicians including: Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, The Remains, Leonard Bernstein, David Brubeck, Jose Feliciano, Chris Frantz & Tina Weymouth, Richard Rodgers, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Keith Richards and Donna Summer. Items representing each musician – instruments, sheet music, awards, and stage outfits – were complemented by a video “juke box” to showcase each artist’s work.
Wonder Women of Fairfield
February 25-April 28, 2014
This exhibition highlighted eleven notable women from Fairfield who reached beyond the expectations of their times and contributed to the community and nation, in fields ranging from military service to business to community philanthropy. The featured women included Margaret Rudkin, founder of Pepperidge Farms; Mabel Osgood Wright, author and conservationist; the first women from Connecticut to join the WAC during World War II and to fly a helicopter; and Fairfield’s first female legislator, among others. Click here on for an online version of this exhibition.
Picturing Fairfield: The Photographs of Mabel Osgood Wright
This exhibit of conservationist and author Mabel Osgood Wright’s glass slides showcased her photographs of historical and pastoral Fairfield. At times nostalgic and sentimental, Wright’s photographs focus on Fairfield’s homes, gardens, people, and the local countryside and present Fairfield as a traditional New England town. Click here for an online version of this exhibition.
IMAGES at the Fairfield Museum
This annual juried photography exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for regional photographers to connect with prominent collectors, gallery owners, fellow photographers, and the public. Past IMAGES exhibits have combined the juried exhibition with a featured photographer with connections to the Fairfield region, including Bill Eppridge, David LaChapelle, Jay Maisel, Charles Ruger, Howard Schatz, and Philip Trager.
The Promise of Freedom: The Emancipation Proclamation
September 23, 2012 – February 4, 2013
Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, this exhibition explored the quintessential ideals that have defined America. Key historical documents from private collectors included Lincoln’s signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, a signed Thirteenth Amendment, and historic broadsides and political cartoons that revealed Lincoln’s struggles with the issue of slavery and the Union. This was the only exhibition in New England that focused on this anniversary, placing the Emancipation Proclamation at the center of understanding American history from the Civil War to Civil Rights and today.
Bravo! A Century of Theatre in Fairfield County
September 25, 2011 – April 1, 2012
This exhibition celebrated the wealth of theatrical history that took place in our backyard from the late 19th century through the present day. Interactive stations offered a window into “behind the scenes” stage production and a colorful array of costumes, props, photographs and manuscripts from Westport Country Playhouse, White Barn Theatre and American Shakespeare Theatre combined to illustrate Fairfield County’s theatrical history. A rich slate of public programs offered even more opportunities to participate in activities, presentations and performances at the Museum and partnering institutions that provide the experience of live theatre while inspiring the artists and audiences of tomorrow.
Our Nation’s Generations: The New Beginnings Family
February 4 – March 6, 2011
This exhibition developed with New Beginnings Family Academy, a Bridgeport charter school, explored the larger theme of “Family” and 5th grade students’ reflections on “Who is a positive role model in my life?” The student’s large, vibrant “story quilt” modeled on the work of celebrated award-winning artist and author Faith Ringgold (b. 1930). Museum visitors also had a unique opportunity to see firsthand Faith Ringgold’s original artwork, including story quilts—Tar Beach 2 and Our Ancestors– and seventeen illustrations from Faith Ringgold’s children’s book Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in The Sky.
It’s a Hit! A Hometown View of our National Pastime
June 20, 2010 – April 3, 2011
Discover the legendary players and teams who played in Connecticut and the local heroes who achieved the American dream. Step onto the historic fields that attracted thousands of people to Bridgeport and hear the roar of fans in vintage radio broadcasts. Discover how the sport evolved through interactive displays of 19th century and modern baseball bats, gloves and balls.