New exhibit at Ridgefield's Keeler Tavern seeks community's stories

Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center's Chief Curator and Assistant Museum Director Catherine Prescott is ready to contribute her story to a new community-sourced exhibit on display in the Carriage Barn. The exhibit, "A Land of Opportunity? Community Building in 19th Century Ridgefield," runs through Sept. 18.

Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center’s Chief Curator and Assistant Museum Director Catherine Prescott is ready to contribute her story to a new community-sourced exhibit on display in the Carriage Barn. The exhibit, “A Land of Opportunity? Community Building in 19th Century Ridgefield,” runs through Sept. 18.

Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center / Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — “What’s your family’s origin story?” That is the question visitors at Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center will get to answer this summer as part of a community-sourced exhibit appearing alongside the museum’s larger exhibit, “A Land of Opportunity? Community Building in 19th-Century Ridgefield.”

Running through Sept. 18, “A Land of Opportunity?” showcases photos of Ridgefield residents from the late 1800s taken by Joseph Hartmann. The pictures illustrate aspects of life for Ridgefield’s Italian immigrants as they found and made their place within the community. The exhibit demonstrates how Hartmann, a German immigrant, documented compelling aspects of local immigration stories through his photography, emphasizing the importance of diversity in a thriving community and the centrality of immigration to the American experience.

To help visitors think about and engage with the topics presented in the Hartmann exhibit, Chief Curator and Assistant Museum Director Catherine Prescott developed a community-sourced companion exhibit.

“We want visitors of all ages to share their history with the museum and understand the importance of their own family stories,” Prescott said.

After exploring the exhibit in KTM&HC’s historic Carriage Barn, visitors are prompted to write a detail from their own “origin story” onto a card and pin it to a display next to Hartmann’s photography. These bits of narrative can be anonymous or signed. Visitors are encouraged to share details from their own lives or those of earlier family members to provide a snapshot of their origins, including: stories of immigration, voluntary or forced; stories of emigration; stories of indigeneity; and more. All details will be cataloged and added to KTM&HC’s archival collection for future generations to read.

Access to all KTM&HC exhibits is included in the price of admission. Visitors interested in only viewing the exhibits can purchase a special discounted pass. To get tickets, visit keelertavernmuseum.org/visit/hours-admission/ or stop by the Visitor Center (152 Main St., Ridgefield) Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.