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Gunn Historical Museum

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Gunn Historical Museum
5 Wykeham Road
P.O. Box 1273
Washington, CT 06793
Telephone: 860-868-7756
     Museum Hours:
Thursday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sundays 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. as of May 3

Louise Van Tartwijk, Museum Director
Stephen Bartkus, Curator gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net

  • All of our programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise stated.
  • There is no admission charge, but donations are greatly appreciated.
  • We would be happy to help with your research, but our other commitments
        require that you make an appointment at least three weeks in advance.

  • Exhibits & Programs


    Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr

    Sunday, May 3 to Saturday, October 31, 2015
    Opening Reception: Sunday, May 3 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

    This retrospective exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Horace Mann School's John Dorr Nature Laboratory in Washington and the 75th anniversary of the Dorr Foundation. Nell Dorr photographs and artifacts from the Massillon Museum in Ohio, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Texas, as well as from the community are featured in this show. New touch screen technology has been incorporated into the exhibit allowing visitors to watch friends and descendants share their stories about Nell Dorr and the lasting impact that she made on their lives and our town. Between Two Worlds: The Photography of Nell Dorr is a traveling exhibition organized by the Massillon Museum. The exhibit and program series has been made possible by a grant from the Dorr Foundation.

    Nell Dorr, celebrated photographer and Washington resident from 1955 until her death in 1988, is best known for her soft-focus depictions of motherhood, family, and children. She first gained notice for her 1934 exhibition at Delphic Studios in New York City, Famous Men, which included images of Carl Sandburg and the man who would become her husband, inventor John Van Nostrand Dorr. Her lifelong dear friend, the actress Lillian Gish, provided entree into the world of well-known individuals.

    The other side of Dorr's artwork features more imaginary settings, children as fairy-like creatures in beautiful natural settings-sometimes mangrove swamps in Florida, other times New England woodlands. Later she created abstract photograms in her darkroom, creating imaginary scenes often with just the light of a kitchen match to expose the images.

    Dorr is best remembered for her images of mothers and their children as recorded in her 1954 book, Mother and Child. A year after the publication of Mother and Child, Dorr was included in Edward Steichen's landmark photography exhibition, The Family of Man, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She was also one of ten artists included in a 1983 exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. that featured great women of photography.

    In addition to two editions of Mother and Child, Dorr published five other books: Mangroves: Verse and Photographs (1933), In a Blue Moon (1939), The Bare Feet (1962), Of Night and Day (1968), and Life Dance (1975). In 1955, Dorr and her friend, the well-known children's author Tasha Tudor, created a film, The Golden Key. Upcoming Special Museum Events Include:
    Lecture on the History of Photography | Tour of the Dorr Nature Laboratory | Women in Photography: A Roundtable | Photographer's Portfolio Review | Female Photography Film Series | Juried Photography Competition (see below) | Lecture on Nell Dorr | Photograph Appraisal Day | Art Themed Washington Cemetery Tour and more! Additional event information will be posted here as details become available.

    The exhibit can be seen during normal museum hours until October 31, 2015. For more information, call 860-868-7756 or email gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net.

    The Gunn Museum's Black & White Photography Competition

    You are invited to submit your work, for consideration, in the Gunn Museum's Photography Competition, in conjunction with the Nell Dorr photography exhibit at the museum. Works submitted will be selected, by a panel of judges, to be hung at the Gunn Library's Stairwell Gallery August 8 to September 19, 2015. Awards with be announced at the opening and a solo show in the Stairway Gallery with be offered to the first place winner.

    The judges will be Wendy Carlson, Judith Petrovich and Kathryn McCarver Root.

    Terms of Entry:

  • the medium is black and white photography.
  • artists may submit up to three examples of their work, no larger than 18" x 24".
  • submissions may be framed, but if not, must be mounted on stiff board and ready to hang.
  • all submissions must have name, title, contact information, and price, if for sale, attached to the work.
  • works must be delivered to the Gunn Museum no sooner than July 20 and no later than July 31, to be eligible.

    Baseball on the Washington Green 1869

    The Rise of Sports in 19th Century Boarding Schools
    Thursday, May 28 at 12:00 p.m.


    Jessica Xu, the 2014-15 Gunn Scholar at The Gunnery, will give a powerpoint presentation in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library as part of the History Bites lecture series. The oldest school in Connecticut operating continuously under the same name, The Gunnery is a leader not only in academics, but also in its commitment to athletic training and sports. Mr. Gunn, the founder of the school, was an early pioneer in the support of athletics in schools and believed in its power to instill morality and build character. Ms. Xu will look into the rise of athletics in boarding schools and the role Mr. Gunn played in it.

    "History Bites" is an annual ten-week lunchtime lecture series, from April through June, on topics of local history at different heritage sites throughout Northwestern Connecticut. All lectures, which are free to the public, will be held at noon on Thursdays. Attendees are invited to bring lunch. Beverages and dessert are provided by the hosting organization. Reservations are requested but not required. The theme for this year's lecture series is "A Closer Look." Each presenter will provide you with a deeper understanding of some aspect of an organization's purpose, some items in an archive or collection, some upcoming exhibit, or some insight into a person worthy of our attention. The 2015 History Bites series is sponsored by the Connecticut Community Foundation.

    Museum Programs at the Washington Senior Center


    Readings from the Archives:

    Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas
    On Monday, May 4 at 10:00 a.m. at the Washington Senior Center, we'll continue the story of Samuel and Gideon Pond of Washington, missionaries to the Dakotas in the 1830s. The Washington Senior Center is located at 6 Bryan Hall Plaza in the center of Washington Depot and can be reached at 860-868-0735.

    Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus presents coffee hour readings from the archives of the Museum on the first Monday of the month at 10:00 a.m. from October to May, in the Washington Senior Center. A paper about the history of Washington from the Museum's archive is read, related photographs and artifacts from the Museum are displayed, and attendees share their memories in a discussion that follows.

    Washington History Club

    Washington History Club at Night has been meeting on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. Next meeting is Tuesday May 19.

    We discuss the history of Washington and the villages of New Preston, Marbledale and Woodville. Participants are asked to bring their photographs and objects that relate to the monthly topic for show and tell. Everyone interested in the history of our town is invited to attend the meetings and share their memories.

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