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Greenwich Historical Society Journey to the past

August 19, 2018

GREENWICH — It will be like stepping back in time for students on field trips to the Greenwich Historical Society — which is completing the work on its expanded campus in Cos Cob.

The GHS plans to expand its educational offerings to take advantage of all of the new space.

“When students arrive we want them immersed in the experience,” the society’s Director of Education Anna Greco said. “As soon as you leave the new facility you’re in a historically interpretive landscape. You’re in a historic house. It really is this immersive experience that really takes them back in time and can connect them with the material they’re learning.”

The new campus, with both new and historically renovated space, is scheduled to open Oct. 6. It will include a new glass-enclosed lobby and welcoming center, expanded records and exhibition space and more storage for the Historical Society’s collection. And with that brings more opportunities.

“They’re going to be able to pull right up to the front of the building, access through the new lobby and, from there, go into the Bush-Holley House for their tour or go to the classroom or use whatever other resources they need,” Greco said.

After the students have been back in school for a few weeks and are diving into Greenwich history, everything is slated to be open at the new campus.

“We’ll have everything up and running when they’re here,” said Debra Mecky, the Historical Society’s executive director and CEO. “We’ll have the exhibits in place. We’ll have the new landscape and gardens, which will be incorporated into our school programs, in place.”

The expanded campus will allow easier access to the Greenwich Historical Society’s collection, provide a reading room and allow the galleries to focus on ways to enhance the school experience and ties to curriculum.

Plus, it will also make room for more student opportunities as well.

“There’s nothing that’s going to prevent us to have a group that’s scheduled from third grade doing our Sarah Bush tour in the Bush-Holley House and having another group whose focus is entirely different,” Mecky said. “They can be doing something in our library or our archives or be focused in the gallery. We are expanding our staff to deal with this, too, and we couldn’t do that before.

”We used to be limited to two schools a day during school hours and now we can probably double that,” she said.

This will be especially helpful in the spring, when every third-grader in Greenwich comes through as part of a shared experience called “Sarah Bush and Her Town.” It creates a scheduling crunch between March and June, Mecky said, and now that influx of students can be accommodated.

Plus, the Greenwich Historical Society also draws visitors from all over Fairfield and Westchester counties. The Cos Cob Art Colony, a National Historic Landmark, is a large draw, just as the town is for its Revolutionary War history.

“It shows how we have evolved as a nation and how the arts evolved over the last century,” Mecky said of the Greenwich Historical Society. “We are well positioned to serve a wider audience.”

There will also be expanded opportunities and workshops for teachers. And more resources will be available for them throughout the school year, she said.

The Greenwich Historical Society is continuing its partnership with Hamilton Avenue School as a part of its magnet programming, even as it switched from a renaissance school to one focused on STEAM education. And the goal is to expand the Historical Society’s work to the town’s other Title I schools, New Lebanon and Julian Curtiss.

The partnership with Hamilton Avenue, now in its 11th year, allows multiple free visits throughout the year for all first- to fifth-graders in a program that builds every year, culminating with a reception at the end of the year. The program involves popular projects such as the third-grade class quilt in which every student makes a patch.

“We want the students to have ownership of their local history,” Greco said.

The expansion to other Title I schools is still down the line, but it is set to happen because the work to build a $5 million endowment for the Greenwich Historical Society includes gifts from Roberta and Steve Denning and Barbara and Ray Dalio that are dedicated to programs for more students.

“We will explore the kind of programming we can offer to those schools,” Mecky said.

With the new gardens and landscaping on the campus, lessons are planned on agriculture and farming that will include hands-on learning experiences for students.

“It’s really exciting to know when people call us with specific inquiries we’re going to have an easier time fulfilling them,” Greco said. “We’re going to have all these new spaces and be able to explore different topics. There’s so much more we can do, and we worked very closely with our designers to make sure we have these opportunities.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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