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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, Connecticut

Striking tower of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center upon approach. 
The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center that was opened in 1998 is one of those rarities in life - a well-funded cultural institution! The extensive planning and preparation and lavish amount of money spent is evident from the view of the soaring tower and atrium upon the initial approach. This sense is only strengthened while walking through beautifully curated exhibits on several floors.

The offerings inside are so immense that visitors are handed an illustrated guide with the title, "Making Your Way Through the Pequot Museum," that shows illustrations and descriptions of 15 different highlights of the collection.

Canoe in The Gathering Space.
1. The Gathering Space. This large glass covered atrium has some exhibits, though is mostly used for public events and visiting school groups. The gift shop is on one end, and restrooms and the restaurant are on the floor above.

2. A ramp leads down to level 2 where the exhibit starts.

3. At the bottom of the ramp a scale model of the reservation and examples of modern-day tribal life are on display.

4. Visitors continue by escalator to Level 1 and the World of Ice exhibits. The escalator passes through an 'ice tunnel' to designate the passage to an earlier time. Displays of Native art and a short film featuring storytellers are on display.

5. Life in a Cold Climate exhibit shows large animals like mastodon, giant beaver, and dire wolves that once roamed the North American continent.

6. Depiction of an ancient caribou hunt from 11,000 years ago.

7. A life-size diorama and touch-screen computers detail the natural habitat of Connecticut.

8. Exhibits on the four seasons, ancient tools, and a short film on creating archaic period tools.

9. An exhibit on the Three Sisters and how they were grown. From there guests are instructed to pick up an Acoustiguide.

10. One inside the Pequot Village, side galleries provide more information about life in southeastern Connecticut 450 years ago. A Palisaded Fort near the exit sets the stage for discussion and interpretation of the Pequot War that follows.

11. Leaving the village, visitors enter the Clash of Cultures exhibits. Particularly striking are a time-line of critical events leading up to the Pequot War interpreted from perspectives of the Pequot, English, and Dutch. Similar video narrations by Pequot, English, and Dutch re-enactors interpret events from the perspective of each. The exhibits on this floor culminate with a showing of the half-hour film The Witness, that presents a dramatic portrayl of the 1637 Pequot War. 

12. Travelling by escalator to Level 2 takes visitors to galleries describing what it meant to be Pequots in centuries to follow the Pequot War. Particularly striking are descriptions of excavation efforts.

13. Photos of the present-day members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation are on display in the portrait gallery.

14. The Mashantucket Gallery provides changing exhibits that highlight Native art and culture. 

15. A visit to the observation tower in encouraged as a culmination of the visit.

View of Foxwoods Resort and Casino from the observation deck in the museum tower.
The conceptual design for the permanent exhibits was created by tribal members, consultants and DMCD Incorporated, and the exhibit design by Design Division, Inc., of New York, Michael A. Hanke, principal.

One of the minor irritations of this museum is the policy against taking pictures. In the case there are artifacts that could be damaged by flash photography, then certainly, yes, prohibit taking pictures with flash. By prohibiting conscientious guests from taking pictures altogether makes it difficult for visitors to share their experience with other people who may be unable to visit themselves. The stories contained in this museum and the stunning interpretive exhibits deserve exposure to a much broader audience. Allowing guests to take photographs is one way to accomplish this.

Lantern Hill while driving along road to the museum.

Captain Mason statue at original locationintersection of Pequot Avenue and
Clift Street in Mystic, Connecticut, before being removed.
Source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/17450131

Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

Battlefields of the Pequot War, 1636-1638, The Mystic Fort Campaign

Pequot War Map, 1636-1638

View Pequot War Map, 1636-1638 in a larger map For Additional Reading...

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