The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center has been monitoring the COVID-19 situation and has a plan for reopening.
It is clear that the historic house museum and broader arts and culture community, with its reliance on leisure travel and moving people through indoor spaces, will experience the impacts of the pandemic for a longer stretch of time than other businesses and organizations. We anticipate our audience – cultural tourists, field trips, and group tours – will return in sustainable numbers in 2021.
The Stowe Center will reopen fully to the public on January 2, 2021. We will begin accepting requests for appointments to access the Collections and Research Library on Monday, July 6. Limited program operations will open on Saturday, August 29. These dates are subject to change as we continue to evaluate public health information.
We are embracing this unusual moment to work on outdoor programming, enhancing our historic park-like setting and encouraging community use while ensuring that guests can maintain safe distances; to develop and deliver digital content; develop richer experiences and other infrastructure that will roll out when we reopen fully; and create blueprints for the future.
What are limited program operations?
A variety of programs are scheduled in the last half of the year that may be held safely. The “Cooking and Caring for Connecticut’s Largest Pawpaw Tree” on Saturday, August 29 is an outdoor event and there is plenty of space on the grounds for guests to spread out. Both Suffrage events – the Phrygian cap-making workshops scheduled for October 10 and November 14 and the Election Day program at Cedar Hill Cemetery – remain on the schedule and we have contingency plans to adjust for the safety of our guests as needed.
Tell me about this outdoor programming.
Glad you asked! Our Solitary Garden art installation, a program associated with Stowe Prize 2020, is open to the public. This is a project that turns solitary confinement cells into garden beds that are the same size and layout as the cell where Albert Woodfox and so many others spend decades. The contents (plants, flowers and herbs) of the prison-cell-turned-garden-bed are designed by prisoners serving their sentences in isolation through proxies on the outside.
The Stowe Center Historic Gardens guide has been updated. Printed copies will be available onsite, in the guide boxes placed around the landscape, in mid-July. This is the perfect time to take a solo stroll around our landscape and learn about Harriet’s plantings.
While not programming, we’ll also be working on improvements to the landscape.
Now tell me about this digital content.
In the coming weeks, we plan to release a series of podcasts, a virtual reality experience that lifts Stowe Prize 2020 winner Albert Woodfox’s words off the pages of Solitary, and online book clubs.
What else do you have up your sleeve this year?
We are rolling up those sleeves and working on numerous projects. A few examples are development of new tour offerings, online tour ticketing, putting together a plan to digitize the hundreds of thousands of objects and manuscripts in our collections, and preparing for ADA improvements to the Visitor Center.
Will there be any special guidelines for research appointments?
Yes. We will ask researchers to wear gloves and a mask for the duration of their time onsite until further notice. The Stowe Center has a limited supply of these items for staff use, so please bring your own. For more information or to schedule a research appointment, call 860.522.9258 ext. 313 or email Research@StoweCenter.org.
How is the Stowe Center getting all of these projects done?
Leadership at the Stowe Center continues to carefully steward the organization’s resources. Many of the projects described in this FAQ are possible with the support of The Hartford, Travelers, Greater Hartford Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Connecticut Humanities, and Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development. You can contribute to the Stowe Center’s future by making a donation or becoming a member.