No Easy Answers for Norwalk Museum Committee

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The Norwalk Museum space was listed as available in late April.
The Norwalk Museum space was listed as available in late April. Photo Credit: Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – The doors to the Norwalk Museum are locked, and there are no answers yet as to what might happen to the historic collection it houses.

The museum closed last week even though its lease does not run out until the end of July. That was to save the city money, Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said. Susan Gunn Bromley, director of the museum, is due a payout of about $20,000. Paying that before the end of the fiscal year on June 30 meant that she would get fewer paychecks in advance of that, therefore less money from this year's budget.

David Westmoreland, co-chairman of the Norwalk Museum Restructuring Committee, said he doesn't know where the historic collection and research archives might go.

"We're still in due diligence stage, trying to understand what's in the collection and the archives," he said. "Also, we have visited all the city-owned historic buildings that have been talked about in consideration of housing the Norwalk Museum, going forward. Everything has issues, including staying in the location that we're at."

The committee has met almost twice a week since forming in late April, he said. Last week, Ralph Bloom, curator of the museum when it was formed in the late '60s, explained the issues that led to moving the museum from the Lockwood House at 125 East Ave., which was built to house the collection, to the former City Hall building at 41 N. Main St. in 1995.

Many have suggested moving the collection back to the mansion. The committee wanted to understand the issues so it doesn't go back to the same problems. Westmoreland said.

"The museum collections and research archives are very expansive and very complex, and we want to make sure we understand what's in them," he said. "Which is one of the reasons we had Ralph Bloom come and talk to the committee last week."

The committee has visiting the historic building now being renovated at Fodor Farm but found it was too small. "There could be some exhibit space that we could use, but that would be a one-off kind of thing," Westmoreland said. "It couldn't be used to house the primary collection."

The consensus is that the Gallaher Mansion in Cranbury Park isn't a good space for a museum, he said.

The next step is for the committee to document its findings regarding the city-owned buildings, he said. Then members will begin delving into the management funding for the museum.

"I know people are anxious for some conclusion, but we don't want to make any recommendations that weren't well thought or done in haste," he said. "It's frustrating because everybody wants an answer."

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Comments (2)

I am so very disappointed the Museum has closed. Our family had planned on going once school was out. My husband and I are not native Norwalkers but our children are and we were all hoping to learn more about the town we call home. We are shocked that this museum isn't visited by every local school. It should be on each school's "must do" list. I personally feel that lack of advertising is what made this museum forgotten about. I talked to many parents about this (many whom have kids at Side By Side Charter School and Columbus Magnet in South Norwalk) and so many of them had no idea the museum existed. Shame on Norwalk! We should have more pride and make this a priority.

I am extremely disappointed that the City administration closed the museum well in advance of the date which had previously been advertised, without providing the Norwalk community with any prior warning of the new closing date. While I understand the budgetary constraints that forced the closing, as well as the reasons for the earlier closing date, the manner in which it was done seems haphazard and extremely poorly executed.

The reason for my disappointment is that I have never been to the museum but I was planning on visiting prior to the museum closing. Had the Norwalk community been warned of the earlier closing date, I would have made an earlier visit. Now that will be impossible.

I hope the committee will figure out a plan that involves private fundraising and allows the museum to remain in its present location. SoNo needs cultural institutions beyond restaurants, bars, the Aquarium, and a movie theater.