Hartford, Conn – Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford was named a Site of Conscience by CT Humanities (CTH), the state’s nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, at a ceremony at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum on August 9. This designation is bestowed on sites that “work in both the past and present, speak to the dignity of all, share multi-layered and multi-generational stories, show diversity within communities, and prioritize equity in working with those most impacted to ensure community inclusion and agency,” according to CTH Executive Director Jason Mancini.
Along with the four other Connecticut sites that also received the Site of Conscience designation this year, Connecticut’s Old State House works to ensure that both sides of difficult moments in history are represented in their exhibits and programs.
Braden Painter, Director, Methodology and Practice, The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ISOC), explains, “The need to remember often competes with the equally strong pressure to forget. Even with the best of intentions – such as to promote reconciliation after deeply divided events by “turning the page” – erasing the past can prevent new generations from learning critical lessons and destroy opportunities to build a peaceful future.”
Connecticut’s Old State House, a National Historic Landmark building which served as a home to all three branches of Connecticut state government from 1796 to 1878, highlights some of Connecticut’s most important stories of freedom, democracy, and civic action, from the Amistad and Prudence Crandall trials to the Constitutional Convention of 1818. Today, Connecticut’s Old State House is operated by a public/private partnership between the Connecticut Office of Legislative Management and The Connecticut Democracy Center. It currently serves as a history museum, gathering spot, and place of civic exploration for thousands of local, national, and international visitors each year.
“We’re pleased that Connecticut Humanities worked to bring Sites of Conscience to Connecticut,” says Connecticut’s Old State House Director Sally Whipple. “Our team has already learned valuable skills through this association and we look forward to using those skills to share our site’s stories in new ways with schools & the public.”
Also inducted as Sites of Conscience this month were the Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community, the Prudence Crandall Museum, Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine, and Pequot Hill.
The Connecticut Democracy Center (CTDC) provides people with a lifetime pathway to active citizenship and the tools to take civic action in their own communities. The CTDC seeks to inspire people of all ages to engage in civic life and strengthen their communities. Learn more at ctdemocracycenter.org.
Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. CTH connects people to the humanities through grants, partnerships, and collaborative programs. CTH projects, administration, and program development are supported by state and federal matching funds, community foundations and gifts from private sources. Learn more at cthumanities.org.
Federation of State Humanities Councils: As the membership organization for the nation’s state and jurisdictional humanities councils, the Federation of State Humanities Councils supports efforts to deepen our democracy using the humanities- literature, philosophy, history, ethics, arts, and the law. Through advocacy, events, partnerships, and shared resources, we unite the work and voices of the councils as they bring wisdom and vision into our everyday lives. Learn more at statehumanities.org.
The Mellon Foundation: The Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and we believe that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience: Founded in 1999, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (“the Coalition”) is the only worldwide network of Sites of Conscience. With over 300 members in 65 countries, we build the capacity of these vital institutions through grants, networking, training, transitional justice mechanisms and advocacy. These members and partners remember a variety of histories and come from a wide range of settings – including long-standing democracies, countries struggling with legacies of violence, as well as post-conflict regions just beginning to address their transitional justice needs – but they are all united by their common commitment to connect past to present, memory to action. Learn more at sitesofconscience.org