New Irish Historical Exhibit is not just Run-of-the-Mill

“Irish Eyes: The Irish Experience in a  Connecticut Mill Town” is on view through October 9.
“Irish Eyes: The Irish Experience in a Connecticut Mill Town” is on view through October 9.

By R. Bryan Willits, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2016

The Irish Club of Willmantic and the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willmantic, CT, have co-sponsored a new exhibit that examines Irish immigrant workers and their descendants.

The exhibit, “Irish Eyes: The Irish Experience in a Connecticut Mill Town,” uses interactive installments, including machine and hand cut turf, an immigration game, and musical instruments visitors will be able to play, in order to tell the story of the work and culture of the Irish in Connecticut who often “took back-breaking, dirty, low-paying jobs,” Anne Marie Charland, the exhibit’s curator told Irish America. “Through multiple generations we begin to see upward mobility both socially and economically,” she said, “Irish and Irish Americans become management, own businesses, and hold public office.”

“Irish Eyes” is the third installment in a series that looks at various ethnic groups that settled in the area, and together, they highlight the often-overlooked influence of Connecticut’s diversity on its economic development, Jamie H. Eves, the museum’s executive director, says.

“And they have demonstrated that the experiences of the various groups have been more similar than different.”

Many of the Irish families are still here, and community involvement was key from the outset, says William Pearson, president of the Irish Club of Willmantic. “At the opening it was wonderful to see people looking at artifacts that were part of their personal heritage, the pictures and heirlooms that were brought here by their families and now are on display,” he said. ♦

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