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Wilton Historical Society Director Bringing Teaching, Fun To Programs

Leslie Nolan, executive director of the Wilton Historical Society, stands in front of the society's herb garden.
Leslie Nolan, executive director of the Wilton Historical Society, stands in front of the society's herb garden. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

WILTON, Conn. -- As executive director of the Wilton Historical Society, Leslie Nolan has a lot of ground to cover.

Literally.

The Historical Society has buildings on three campuses: the main site at 224 Danbury Road, and nearby facilities at Cannondale and Lambert Corner.

The organization has approximately 14,000 items, including toys, trains, and about 600 tools from the 19th and early-20th centuries.

The group even has a working blacksmith shop.

For the leader of the multifaceted organization, a typical day can include anything from grant-writing and work with the board of directors to assisting with exhibits, development and publicity.

Ultimately, Nolan is responsible for all of it.

“It’s a lot of juggling,” she said. “It’s a fun challenge.”

Nolan’s willingness to accept the challenges that come with preserving history have resulted in a career-spanning journey.

Nolan began her work as a research assistant with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. She would go on to become curator of the Museum of the City of New York.

After moving to Connecticut in 2002, Nolan became director of the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk before coming to the Historical Society in 2012.

The museum, she says, has something for people of all ages.

“I don’t know another historical society in Connecticut that oversees and maintains 18 buildings,” she said.

Nolan said the museum’s signature event, the Great Train Holiday Exhibit: An Interactive Wonderland, opens every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and continues until Martin Luther King Day.

The display includes dozens of trains and a wide array of tracks. Assistance is provided by an assortment of “track men,” all of whom volunteer their time.

In addition to the trains, the Historical Society hosts a farmers’ market every summer and features a variety of weekend programs.

On the last Saturday of each month, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, the museum holds its Colonial Cookery and Customs program, where kids learn about colonial hearth cooking.

On Thursday, the Historical Society is hosting its annual chocolate making workshop, which includes a discussion on the history of chocolate.

Nolan said the event features a children’s session from 3 to 4 p.m., and an adult session from 7 to 8 p.m.

The kids’ version costs $5 for children of members, and $10 for children of non-members; the adult version, which also includes a wine-tasting, is $20 for members, and $25 for non-members.

On Valentine's Day, Sunday, Feb. 14, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the museum will host LoveNotes, which will feature actors reading love stories by authors such as Dorothy Parker, Paul Rudnick and Nora Ephron.

Cost is $25 for members, and $30 for non-members.

In the end, Nolan said, the purpose of the Historical Society, along with its many programs, is both to illuminate and provide enjoyment.

“We’re trying to make history relevant,” she said. “It’s fun to bring people here and see their reactions.”

For more information on the Historical Society, call 203-762-7257, or click here.

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