Eight ethnic museums to visit on Connecticut Open House Day, from Ukrainian to Jewish, African American and Sikh

The recent ribbon-cutting at Sikh Art Gallery in Norwich added a new museum to Connecticut’s lineup of spaces that celebrate ethnicity. Several museums in the state are devoted to artists or subject matter of a particular racial or religious heritage.

One of the state’s crown jewels in ethnic historical collections, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, is moving to a new address at the Gaelic-American Club in Fairfield. Its artworks and artifacts, all pertaining to the 19th-century Irish “potato famine,” are off view until relocation is complete, but examples from the collection can be seen at ighm.org.


Here is a list of some museums to connect to those of your heritage and to learn about and enjoy the art and history of various cultures. Some are participating in Open House Day on June 11, a statewide effort to encourage Connecticut residents to appreciate the cultural gems in their midst. Check websites for exhibit updates. For a full list of venues welcoming visitors on Open House Day, visit ctvisit.com/CTOpenHouseDay.

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture is located in Hartford, where the Amistad Trial got its start. It was founded with the 1987 purchase of Randolph Linsly Simpson’s collection of Black art and ephemera, and has grown to more than 7,000 pieces in its collection. “It preserves what Africans in America endured, achieved, brought, built and created,” the museum’s website states, telling stories not told by mainstream history. The Amistad, which has permanent and temporary exhibits on the Black experience in America, will hold a free Juneteenth Family Day on June 11 from noon to 4 p.m., as part of Open House Day. The Amistad is inside Wadsworth Atheneum at 600 Main St. in Hartford. It is open Thursday to Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission to both spaces is $15, free for Hartford residents. amistadcenter.org.


The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation opened Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center in Ledyard in 1998, six years after the Nation opened Foxwoods Resort Casino. Now the world’s largest Native American museum, it has permanent exhibits — including dioramas showing historically accurate scenes from the lives of the Mashatucket Pequot Tribe — as well as an auditorium, a restaurant and temporary exhibits with artifacts, ethnographic and archaeological collections, and arts and crafts by Native creatives. An Education Powwow, showing Native dancers, will be July 8 and 9. Schemitzun, the Feast of Green Corn and Dance, is celebrated annually in autumn. The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $22, $17 seniors, $13 youth, 5 and younger free. It is at 110 Pequot Trail in Ledyard. pequotmuseum.org.

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Tantaquidgeon Museum was founded in 1931 by Mohegan John Tantaquidgeon, whose philosophy was “you can’t hate someone you know a lot about.” It is the oldest museum in the country owned and operated by Native Americans. Among the artifacts are a 17th-century wampum collar worn by Mohegan Sachem Uncas, a Flying Bird Belt worn by Mohegan women from the 18th to 21st centuries, an 18th century mortar and pestle used to grind corn and projectile points going back 6,000 years used to hunt and fish. Every summer, the museum holds a Wigwam Festival, aka Green Corn Festival. The museum, at 1 Church Lane in Montville, is open Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is open on Open House Day. On June 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., it will celebrate “Strawberry Thanksgiving,” with activities, crafts, tours and snacks. facebook.com/tantaquidgeonmuseum

Palestine Museum was founded in 2018 in Woodbridge by Faisal Saleh, as the first gallery in the Americas dedicated to artworks made by Palestinians. Saleh, of Wallingford, was born in the West Bank. His family was driven off their farmland in 1948. “My story is the story of millions of Palestinians,” he said. The museum displays artworks by dozens of artists, including Ayed Arafah, Ghassan abu Laban, Dalia Ali, Manal Deeb, Mahmoud Zayed, Nadia Irshaid Gilbert, Karim Abu Shakra, Nameer Qassim, Samia Halaby, Sobhiya Hasan Qais and Suzan Bushnaq. In June on an as-yet-unspecified date, the museum will have an event in honor of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist recently killed in the West Bank, unveiling a portrait of her by Jacqueline Bejani. The museum is open by appointment at 1764 Litchfield Turnpike in Woodbridge. palestinemuseum.us

Ukrainian Museum and Library, the oldest cultural institution established by Ukrainians in North America, opened in 1937 in a former mansion and the former St. Basil Preparatory School in Stamford. It exhibits artifacts and publications about Ukrainian culture and heritage, as well as fine art by Ukrainian artists, folk art such as Easter pysanky eggs, religious icon art, as well as embroidery including traditional clothing. The library holds more than 60,000 books from as far back as the Middle Ages. The photography collection has, among other holdings, 4,000 glass negative slides of the Ukrainian Army of WWI. Also on exhibit are postage stamps, banknotes, posters, concert programs and maps from the 17th and 18th centuries. The museum is open Tuesday to Thursday 1 to 5 p.m. and by appointment at 161 Glenbrook Road in Stamford. ukrainianmuseumlibrary.org.

The Finnish American Heritage Society was founded in 1987 in Canterbury in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The society has an archive, research room, exhibit area and a library with Finnish- and English-language books and records, as well as photographs and other artifacts of Finnish life and history. The headquarters also has a monument to all Finnish-American veterans of WWII. A 35th anniversary celebration — with a catered meal, music by the Phil Palonen Jazz Trio and talks on Finnish heritage — will be June 5 from noon to 4 p.m. New members are welcome. $35. The society also is open on June 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., as part of Open House Day. Drink coffee, eat pulla bread, visit the exhibits and see a Finnish sauna. The society is open Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 76 North Canterbury Road in Canterbury. fahs-ct.org.

Jewish Historical Society of New Haven was founded in 1976, after Harvey N. Laden, who lived on Central Avenue, collected photos and memorabilia for years on Jewish life in the city. Now part of the Ethnic Heritage Center at Southern Connecticut State University, the historical society has a 1,500-volume library, photographs, documents, genealogies, press articles and artifacts as well as records from synagogues, cemeteries and organizations. People with stories to tell pertaining to the New Haven-area Jewish communities can inquire about adding their stories to the society’s oral history collection, which currently has more than 300 entries. The historical society is open Monday and Friday 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is at 270 Fitch St. in New Haven. jewishhistorynh.org.

Sikh Art Gallery in Norwich was founded by City Councilman Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, who was born in New Delhi and raised in the Sikh-dominated Punjab region. The art gallery has dozens of artworks and artifacts on the history and culture of the Sikhs, and remembering the oppression experienced by Sikhs in their homeland of India. “Sikhs living in the diaspora need to give the world the right narrative, tell the world the reality of the Sikhs,” Singh Khalsa said. “We must keep up the fight, keep the stories alive.” Among artifacts are press articles, posters, maps and books about Sikhism, carefully curated to reflect truth, not anti-Sikh propaganda. The museum also holds Punjab-language and kirtan singing classes for the community. It usually is open by appointment only at 7 Clinic Drive in Norwich, but on Open House day, it is open noon to 4 p.m. sikhartgallery.com.

Susan Dunne can be reached at sdunne@courant.com.

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