By LISA CAPOBIANCO
As this Saturday marks Connecticut Open House Day, Bristol is celebrating the “magic’ of its museums.
Five Bristol museums are participating in the first-ever “Museum Magic” event, which was created by the Bristol’s Museum Director’s Collaborative. The event will include free admission to the museums, thanks to the support from the city of Bristol. The New England Carousel Museum, along with the American Clock & Watch Museum, The Barnes Nature Center, Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center and the Memorial Military Museum will showcase what they have to offer throughout the day.
Located at 95 Riverside Ave., the Carousel Museum will have its doors open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to educate visitors about the art of the carousel. The museum is dedicated to the acquisition, restoration, and preservation of operating carousels and carousel memorabilia.
“We’re very eager to share this treasure,” said Executive Director Louise DeMars, who presented the idea of Museum Magic. “We also want people to walk away understanding the art and history of [carousels]. Carousels are an art form.”
Visitors also will get a chance to experience the “magic of nature” at The Barnes Nature Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Located at 175 Shrub Road, the center will feature live animals, hands-on activities crafts and nature walks. The center was built in 1972, and was the first landholding of the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, Inc.
“Our overall mission is to inspire the appreciation and enjoyment of nature,” said Executive Director Scott Heth, adding that visitors also can enjoy the center’s exhibits. “Through these activities, we’re hoping that children will expand their natural sense of discovery, so they’ll continue to have a desire to go outside.”
Children also can experience discovery at Imagine Nation, which will celebrate the Wonders of Light Day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located at 1 Pleasant Street, the museum will highlight the magic of light, color and reflection, as well as the grand opening of the new Kaleido-Lab at 10 a.m. The lab was funded by the Smith Family Charitable Fund at the Main Street Community Foundation
The first 100 guests will receive free admission to the museum. Admission is $10 per person, and free for Imagine Nation members and children under one.
“It’s something different that really goes along with our philosophy of creativity and curiosity and getting people to have learning experiences that are really fun and hands-on,” said Assistant Director Sara Castle.
“We have a lot of exciting things planned for that day,” said Director of Development & Marketing Doreen Stickney, adding how the collaborative has been a great partnership with other museums.
Formed in 2006, the Museum Director’s Collaborative brings together directors from the five museums every month to share information and discuss various projects over lunch. Members of the collaborative work together, bringing new programming to Bristol.
“It allows us to know what’s going on at the other organizations, and it keeps us in touch with one another,” said DeMars. “We’ve done some wonderful collaborations.”
“I really enjoy having all the museums collaborate together on an event that’s so good for the community,” added Patti Philippon, executive director of the Clock & Watch Museum.
DeMars said she hopes the event will attract Bristol families and visitors from afar.
“Bristol really has some treasures in their community,” said DeMars, adding that she hopes visitors will come to embrace museums in the community. “If people realize how many museums we have for a community of our size, and the kind of special events and educational programs…it’s really incredible.”
Located at 100 Maple Street, the Clock & Watch Museum will give visitors an opportunity to experience the magic of clockmaking from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can watch clock repairers work on different types of clock movements, learning what it is that makes the clocks tick. The museum also will feature clock crafts in the Barnes Wing and “Minute to Win It” style games in the Sundial Garden.
Sponsored by Stanley Black & Decker, the museum’s annual White Night event will kick off a 4 p.m. with an open-air jazz concert and activities for all ages. Guests can bring a picnic, and are encouraged to wear white.
“I want [visitors] to see what kind of a fun museum it is and that we’ve got a lot to offer…whether you like history or…timekeeping, artistry and some of the fun family-friendly games,” said Philippon.
Meanwhile, as the Wall That Heals will be on Memorial Boulevard from June 9 to 12, thousands of visitors are expected to honor military members who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War. The Memorial Military Museum will present a special exhibit to honor 13 Bristol men who made the ultimate sacrifice. The museum also will showcase its collection of uniforms, photographs, letters, commendations and other artifacts that illustrate the stories of those who served their country during the war.