October 19, 2017

CT River Museum Hosts New Exhibit, ‘Connecticut’s Founding Fish,’ Through July 31

Shad Fisherman Admiring Their Catch, early 20th century photograph, Connecticut River Museum collection.

ESSEX — The return of the shad signals spring in the Connecticut River Valley and the Connecticut River Museum is ready – hosting a new temporary exhibit that honors Connecticut’s Founding Fish.

Why is this bony fish so special to the River Valley? It has been an important food source for inhabitants along the River, starting with Native Americans and continuing throughout history. Ingenious methods of capturing the fish have been created over the years – from weirs and fish pounds, to specialized netting techniques done in the dead of night – shadding developed its own kind of folk culture.  Once caught, the fish had to be expertly boned before being sold locally in fish markets or shad shacks.

American Shad, wood carving by Timothy Eastland, Connecticut River Museum collection.

A ritual of spring, many communities organized a shad bake before the season ended; a large communal dinner of planked shad baked before an open fire. Other communities, such as Windsor, Connecticut, developed a fishing derby around the shad season, enticing sportsmen to compete for cash and prizes.

The exhibit, Connecticut’s Founding Fish examines the material and folk culture surrounding the return of the shad to the Connecticut River. Using paintings, prints, maps, tools, ceremonial objects and photographs, the exhibit will explore the natural and cultural history of shad in our region.

In addition to the exhibit, the Connecticut River Museum will be offering programs related to shad.  On March 30, at 5:30 pm Steve Gephard will present a lecture, Shad of the CT River at the Museum.  Also, on June 3, the Museum will partner with the Rotary Club of Essex on the Essex Annual Shad Bake held at the Museum.

The exhibition is on view through July 31, 2017.

The Connecticut River Museum is the only museum dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its Valley.  The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.  For more information on the exhibit and related programs please contact the Connecticut River Museum at 860.767.8269 or visit the website, ctrivermuseum.org.

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