Scope of the Museum's Collection

LITCHFIELD'S ALMOST 300 years of growth and change are reflected through its permanent collection, which contains material related to local families, homes, businesses and institutions. Objects in the Society's collection include furniture, paintings, textiles, toys, ceramics, trade signs, and other fine and decorative arts. The collection includes objects that date from the founding of the town in 1719 to the present day.

But the majority of the museum's objects date from 1781 to 1840, a time when Litchfield was a bustling commercial and educational center. During these years the town formed an important crossroads. And it was known throughout the country for its two outstanding schools: the Litchfield Law School (1774-1833) and the Litchfield Female Academy (1792-1833). Visitors to the Society can tour the Tapping Reeve House & Law School. Reeve was the first lawyer to develop a course of formal lectures that became the basis for the university law school system. The Society owns several of the original furnishings from the Reeve's house and the law school, Reeve's law library, the notebooks produced by the law students, images of the students, and a large related collection of 18th and 19th century writing equipment.

The Litchfield Female Academy was one of the first major academically-focused educational institutions for women in the United States. The Society owns elaborate needlework pictures, textile-related items including several lace pieces and a quilt, drawings and watercolors, charts and maps, student diaries and journals, student albums and copy books, catalogs, diplomas, play and essay manuscripts, school books and assorted correcpondence of Academy students and their families.

The fine arts collection is particulary noteworthy for this period and includes portraits of the town's families, by artists including Gilbert Stuart, Ammi Phillips, Ezra Ames, Richard Jennys, Frederick Herring and Waldo & Jewett. Highlights include eleven portraits and one landscape by Ralph Earl and thirty-three portrait miniatures by Anson Dickinson.

The Litchfield Historical Society continues to add to its museum collection through donations and purchases. Anyone with materials that might interest the Society should contact the Curator. The staff is always happy to discuss a possible acquisition, whether the object or papers are high style and fancy or down to earth and everyday, 18th century or 20th century. In fact, the Society particularly seeks everday objects because everyday items were often worn out and consequently rare. However, to give our visitors a balanced view of Litchfield it is critical that all types of objects, from all periods, be available for study and exhibition.