History is all about stories, and at the Danbury Museum & Historical Society in Connecticut [an advertiser on The Mercurial], the stories of the city’s local heroes are being displayed until November 5. Visit the Museum’s ‘Hometown Heroes’ exhibit to meet the police officers and firefighters who have kept Danbury safe for more than a century.
Inside the exhibit cases is a written history that tells the tale of the Danbury Police Department (DPD) and the Danbury Fire Department (DFD). The story, written by Museum employee Shannon McDonald, begins in April, 1889, the year Danbury changed from a borough to a city. We are introduced to Morris Meyers, the first police chief of Danbury, whose salary was two hundred dollars. The 1970 DPD headquarters, bombed by the Purdue brothers in an attempt to distract the force from the bank they were robbing, is revisited. We meet the 20th century women of Danbury, who formed bucket brigades to assist male fire crews.
The exhibit also showcases a visual history of Danbury’s fire and police departments. Panels of photographs made by volunteer photographer Catherine Vanaria line each case, featuring colored photos, old black and whites, and relevant headlines. Individual framed photos of the firefighters and police officersx who have died on duty honor their service and highlight the risks that both departments have taken for the citizens of Danbury.
Artifacts such as logs, manuals, and uniforms accompany the pictures and the written story of ‘Hometown Heroes.’ A report of the expenditures of the 1919 DPD documents how much money is spent on “regular police,” “special police,” and “street lighting.” A rules and regulation manual from 1925 can be compared to another beside it from 1964. Certifications, ID cards, and more accent the exhibit.
Museum visitors who seek a more in-depth experience can visit a table in the center of the showroom and leaf through binders of archival materials from both departments along with a history of the DFD written by Donald Wood.
Exhibits at the museum are always planned two years ahead, and ‘Hometown Heroes’ was inspired by a patron’s research request about the history of the DFD. Museum Executive Director Brigid Guertin said the exhibit is all about “the people of this city taking care of the people of this city, generation after generation.” According to Guertin, the Museum receives donations of photos and artifacts almost daily, and after deciding on the ‘Hometown Heroes’ exhibit two years ago, the museum began looking through its archives, searching for photos that told the best story.
The Museum is also in the process of writing two children’s books about the departments with help from Chief Alan Baker of the DPD and Chief Geoff Herald of the DFD.