Cathy Fields has been executive director of the Litchfield Historical Society for nearly 32 years. Coming from a family of museumgoers, Fields spent a lot of time during her youth in places like Old Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg, and Monticello. She knew she wanted to work in a museum as soon as she understood that it could be a real job. Fields has spent her career connecting people to their Litchfield history and giving them a sense of place.
What does the museum do?
Much of our work is with the public—exhibitions, public programs, tours, workshops, and special events. The library and archives is open for research and we have an amazing collection of photographs and documents. But a lot of what we do is behind the scenes—caring for and documenting artifacts and archives, and research.
What are some of your favorite artifacts?
I love the needlework and other art that was produced at the Litchfield Female Academy. My favorite is a watercolor Chart of the Faculties of the Soul.
What do you find most interesting about the work you do at LHS?
We not only talk about the history of the community but try and make connections between history and the present day. The Tapping Reeve House and Law School provides many opportunities to connect past and present. It was the first law school in the country and in 1800 close to ten percent of the United States congress were graduates of the school. It’s fascinating to look at the work they did and the ways in which it’s relevant to current events.
What are you most proud about accomplishing at the museum?
I’m most proud of the ways in which we are reaching the community, especially the schools. We meet with students multiple times over the school year. Litchfield Bancorp generously sponsors the programs, which is essential since we receive no town or state funding.
What is the history of the building and the beautiful stained glass window?
The building was originally built as the town library. It’s formally the Noyes Memorial Building—constructed in 1900 by John Vanderpoel as a memorial to his grandmother Julia Tallmadge Noyes. Sadly, John passed away while the building was under construction so his mother, Emily Noyes Vanderpoel commissioned the stained glass window in the front of the building as a memorial to him. The Historical Society shared space with the library until the mid 1960s when they moved to the Oliver Wolcott, Jr. house. The stained glass window facing the green was commissioned by the Mary Floyd Tallmadge Chapter of the DAR as a memorial to Revolutionary war soldiers.
What do you have planned for the 300th anniversary of the town of Litchfield?
We have many special programs planned including themed walking tours, community conversations, and special events. Including the new exhibit Sold, Made, & Grown in Litchfield: showcasing the history of commerce, industry, and agriculture in town and examining the connection between Litchfield businesses and the formation of community space, identity, and memory.