Wilton Historical Society To Open Two New Exhibits

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The Wilton Historical Society will open "Tavern Signs & Paintings, Heidi Howard, Maker & Painter" on Thursday, April 24.
The Wilton Historical Society will open "Tavern Signs & Paintings, Heidi Howard, Maker & Painter" on Thursday, April 24. Photo Credit: Courtesy WIlton Historical Society
The Wilton Historical Society will open "Changing Times – Hand Tools Before the Industrial Revolution: Connecticut Tools of the Trades from the Walter R.T. Smith Collection" on Thursday, April 24.
The Wilton Historical Society will open "Changing Times – Hand Tools Before the Industrial Revolution: Connecticut Tools of the Trades from the Walter R.T. Smith Collection" on Thursday, April 24. Photo Credit: Courtesy WIlton Historical Society

WILTON, Conn. -- The Wilton Historical Society is hosting two new exhibits opening this spring. 

The new exhibits are "Changing Times – Hand Tools Before the Industrial Revolution: Connecticut Tools of the Trades from the Walter R.T. Smith Collection" and "Tavern Signs & Paintings, Heidi Howard, Maker & Painter." The opening reception for the new exhibits is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24.  

"The Wilton Historical Society’s Walter R. T. Smith, tool collector extraordinaire, has selected 30 objects from his personal collection to illustrate the diverse tools any Connecticut farmer would have had on hand prior to the Industrial Revolution," representatives said in a press release. "Complimenting that exhibition is a selection of hand-painted, traditionally- styled tavern signs and paintings by Heidi Howard."

"Changing Times – Hand Tools Before the Industrial Revolution: Connecticut Tools of the Trades from the Walter R.T. Smith Collection" will be featured in the Burt Barn Gallery. 

"Mounted on the walls of the Burt Barn Gallery, the setting compliments the sculptural appearance of the old tools," representatives said. "They have an almost folk-art quality, with their worn wood and rather eccentric shapes. The machines that supplanted them in the Industrial  Revolution would never have the soul of these antique implements." 

The objects shown in the exhibit date from 1772 to 1890, and are representative of the kinds of hand tools, tasks and trades that were affected by the sweep of the Industrial Revolution, representatives said in the release. Walter R.T. Smith is a Wilton treasure, and an emeritus trustee at the Historical Society.

Smith has amassed more than 4,000 tools used by nearly three dozen trades and crafts typical of the work done in a rural New England community in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the tools were made in and around Wilton. The Wilton Historical Society’s Abbott Barn houses more than 600 additional tools, most donated Smith from his personal collection, according to the release. The exhibition will continue through October 4, 2014.

"Tavern Signs & Paintings, Heidi Howard, Maker & Painter" will be featured in the Sloan House Gallery. 

"The intimate space allows a close view of the works, contemporary interpretations of 18th century hand-planed 100 to 200 year-old boards, and on view for the first time," according to the release. "Tavern keepers in early America were required to display a sign large enough for travelers in a passing coach to see."

The signs are painted, lettered by hand, and finished with an antiqued patina from Heidi Howard. Included in the exhibit is “The Beehive”, a sign of an operating bee-kept tavern. 

“I have vivid childhood memories of poking around in quiet old outbuildings, sifting through piles of what most people would call junk, and pulling out wonderful bits of salvage, weathered to perfection," said Howard. "These kinds of materials are what I prefer to handle to this day, as they are so familiar to me. I like the idea of 'making do' with what is on hand, transforming individual elements into a whole to form a painting or an assemblage. There is a certain New England frugality about this process which forces me to keep things simple.”

The Wilton Historical Society is located at 224 Danbury Road. Call 203-762-7257 or visit the website for more information.

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