NORWALK, Conn. -- Norwalk used to be known as "Oyster Town" because of its large oyster farming industry, and a new exhibit is celebrating that history.
"Oysters: The Pearl of Norwalk's History" is now on display in the Mayor's Gallery at Norwalk City Hall. The exhibit uses art and history to explore the importance of the oyster industry to the city of Norwalk. The exhibit will be on display until June 30.
"Here at the Mayor's Gallery, we use this space to display art and to demonstrate what's going on in the community," said Sooo-Z Mastropietro, the curator for the Mayor's Gallery who put the exhibit together. Oysters were chosen as the subject for this exhibit because of their importance to the history of Norwalk.
"The oyster industry is one the industries that helped to build the city of Norwalk," she said.
Many of the artifacts in the exhibit were provided by Norm Bloom & Son, a local oyster farm, as well as from the Norwalk Historical Collection, the Rowayton Historical Society and the Bruce Museum. Text panels take visitors through the history of oyster farming in Long Island Sound, as well as the anatomy and life cycle of oysters, the different culinary possibilities of oysters, the history of the Norm Bloom oyster company, and how oysters play a part in agriculture.
There are a series of paintings of the oyster business by Norwalk artist Alexander Rummler, as well as an original painting of an oyster by Ridgefield artist Miles Shapiro. The exhibit also features a series by photographer Peter Massini of Bloom crews harvesting oysters.
"The photographs really illustrate the people who work in the oyster business and give an idea of the labor involved," Mastropietro said. "You really get an idea of the scale when you see the mountain of oysters on the decks of the boats."
Norwalk is the state largest producers oysters. Production peaked in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Norwalk had the largest fleet of steam-powered oyster boats in the world. Production declined toward the end of the 20th century, due to parasites and pollution, but has steadily increased again. Bloom has worked hard to monitor and protect the water quality in the Sound, Mastropietro said.
"We just want to give people an awareness of an old industry that is still very much alive," she said.