Westport Museum’s “River Of Names” Letter

Yesterday’s story on the Westport Library’s “River of Names” mural was one of the longest I’ve ever posted on “06880.”

If I had included the Westport Museum for History & Culture’s 1,600-word, October 2021 letter to Library director Bill Harmer, it would have been even longer.

Here is what Museum director Ranim Ganeshram and chairperson, history educator and archivist Cheryl Bliss wrote then, as the Library was discussing next steps for the mural.

They note in detail “historical inaccuracies, inaccurate representations, and
perhaps most importantly glaring omissions of fact based on idealized Euro-centric views of the past.”

They recommended re-installation of the mural with replacement of tiles that “demonstrate history accurately.”

If the panels were not replaced, the report said that “extensive wall labels and text panels should accompany it to point out and counteract the errors and misconceptions it represents. The wall could be an object lesson about how the viewpoints of the era in which it was created was an informing factor in this Eurocentric view. Correction of the history on the digital site should follow the same format.”

Here is that October 2021 letter to Harmer:


Myself, Cheryl Bliss (chairperson, history educator and archivist), and various researchers here at Westport Museum have reviewed the Westport Library’s River of Names Tile Wall per your concerns in anticipation of its potential re-installation. It is our opinion that the wall is rife with historical inaccuracy and a myopic view of history that will be hurtful and unwelcoming to modern viewers. The details of our assessment follow.

It must first be said that projects like the Westport Library’s River of Names which endeavor to use “non-traditional” methods—in this case an art installation—to teach local history enter the realm of Public History defined by the National Council on Public History as “history beyond the walls of a traditional classroom.”

Those practicing Public History–Public Historians–span fields and disciplines and may include teachers, librarians, museum professionals, artists and many others. However, regardless of the professional discipline from which public historians may originate, they are called upon to apply rigorous methods to ensure the history presented is accurate: “In terms of intellectual approach, the theory and methodology of public history remain firmly in the discipline of history, and all good public history rests on sound scholarship.”

In the opinion of Westport Museum, The River of Names Tile Wall, does not meet the standard of sound scholarship. The Wall features historical inaccuracies, inaccurate representations, and perhaps most importantly glaring omissions of fact based on idealized Euro-centric views of the past.

Beginning with tile numbered 1 in River of Names: A History of Westport, CT 1637-1998 in bas-relief ceramic tile donor mural catalog by Dorothy Curran: 1637–Puritans and Pequots End The Swamp War.

This is an entirely misleading tile and description. There was not simply an end to the Pequot War but rather a complete massacre of native people by European colonists. The implication within the description is that “peace-loving Pequannock” were supporters of the Puritan colonists who had driven and massacred members of fellow tribes. There is no historical River of Names Historical Accuracy proof of this. Rather tribal oral history and European written history indicates that the tribespeople of the various tribes of what would become Westport (Paugusset-Sasqua-Aspetuck-Pequannok) supported the Pequot in the fight. When the Europeans prevailed, native men were slaughtered, and the women and children enslaved. The rosy view of this event is both inaccurate and extremely insensitive to the remaining tribal people in the area. The flimsy explanation that native men are depicted as white because they are “ghosts” is a paltry excuse for lack of care in the depiction of non-white individuals.

Tile #2 (Curran) entitled: 1648: Pequannock Tribe agrees to sell “Machamux” to the five “Bank-side” farmers” This persistent myth that local tribes “sold” their property to Europeans has been widely discounted by scholars of native history, colonial history, and legal history. Research into land transactions between natives and Europeans indicate that native individuals–who did not operate within Western legal constructs–were not always aware of the nature of the “contracts” to which they agreed. This simplistic representation belies a long, legally documented history of betrayal and violence of and toward native people in the area for the purpose of taking their land. Again, the indigenous people are depicted as white.

With respect to the tile #7 (Curran) 1705—Tidal mill for emerging West Indies trade; 1775—Coley Store; Tile #13 (Curran) 1790 E. (Ebenezer) Jesup Builds Wharf on Saugatuck’s east Bank; Tile # 10 (Curran) 1775 E. (Ebenezer) Coley builds saltbox home, shop and wharf. The West Indies trade specifically refers to the Transatlantic Slave Trade in which local farmers and millers produced goods to sell to West Indian slave plantations. These plantations provided the greatest source of income for men like Coley and Jesup—who were among those who owned the greatest number of enslaved people in the town. This is not indicated anywhere on the wall or the write up. Last, the Coley store was not a residence as depicted in the tile and in the tile’s description,

Tile #17 (Curran) 1810 tile referring to the Captains Sherwood (triplets) also omits that the triplets conducted regular business with the American Southern Slave plantations after the end of slavery in the British West Indies. The reference to the 1814 Saugatuck Manufacturing Company focusing on cotton twine and cotton goods fails to consider that cotton from Southern Slave
plantations, came into Westport on trading vessels. Without this product of slavery mills such as this one would not have prospered.

The description of Tile #19 (Curran) 1832 founding of Saugatuck Congregational Church refers to the1818 Connecticut Constitution—but does not make it clear that this document was created in part to disenfranchise non-white voters specifically and legally by including a race requirement. This was a specific response to the enfranchisement of formerly enslaved men emancipated during Connecticut’s Gradual Abolition (1784-1848).

Tiles #18 & #20 ( about the Kemper Tannery and Saugatuck Manufacturing Company do not indicate that immigrants and child laborers were employed at this site while “1840’s, 1850’s & 1860’sEmerging diversity of religious worship” only refers to Christian religious institutions. The write up about Louise Lortel omits what is perhaps considered her greatest legacy—the opportunity she gave to the Black performers in the era of segregation. The description refers to the towns “diverse cultural heritage” although there is virtually no representation of non-Europeans on the picture tiles of the River of Names Wall.

Descriptions of the building of the Westport Bank by Horace Staples and later refurbishment of the property at large (National Hall) on tile #24 (Curran) fails to indicate that the National Hall portion of the building referred to the 2nd floor where a theater was located. Minstrel shows, caricaturizing African Americans, were a popular attraction at this theater. The wall features other details of historical inaccuracy such as the tile depicting Washington’s visit to Marvin Tavern in 1789 on tile #11 (Curran). As a point of fact, Washington only rode white horses, however he would have been travelling by carriage during this presidential tour. Further, in 1789 he was President and made a point of wearing civilian clothing—not his Continental Army uniform as portrayed on the tile.

The tile #35 (Curran) referring to the first automobiles in the town misses the opportunity to talk about the Toquet Motor Company here in Westport which produce a motor car earlier than Ford.

The information about Westport Museum (Westport Historical Society) on tiles #68 (Curran) is inaccurate. The original building on this site was a 2nd period colonial style, like the building currently across the street. The ocular windows in the current structure are not unique as stated—two other Italianate houses on Main Street feature them. The tile referring to the Bradley Wheeler barn refers to the statues on our property as sculptures—they are, in fact, miniature golf statues, made for use on a private miniature golf course. They are not sculptures.

In conclusion, the River of Names represent a singular view of history, that is an exemplar of the time in which it was produced: A time in which a Eurocentric lens of the past, devoid of the complexity of the eras it purports to depict was acceptable. The omission of provable facts that could offer context to the actual history was the norm for the time the River was installed but it is inappropriate given the call upon public historians to present a holistic and accurate view of history.

We have no doubt that those who worked on this project when it was installed did the best they could, given the level of their research skills and the information that was available to them. Further, the way the tiles are presented was, no doubt, acceptable at the time they were made.

Certainly no one is at fault for being a product of their own era and viewing the world through that lens. However, as is often the case as time marches on, new information and new viewpoints come to light. When historical data makes it clear that a misrepresentation of fact has occurred it is the obligation of any institution engaging in public history to correct those errors.

Most of all, and perhaps most importantly, the singular view of history represented on these tiles present a one-note image of the town that has never been true. The wall effectively erases indigenous people, African Americans, Jews, and others who were part of the story—from the beginning—even when that story was not pretty. It is hurtful and diminishing to our diverse citizenry—both within Westport and visitors from outside of the town—to see a proudly whitewashed display of this kind without explanation.

Within our field of public history there is constant discussion about how to deal with monuments, statues, history books, panels and other items that have since proven to be false in their information or offensive in their presentation. It is our opinion that should the River of Names be re-installed, the tiles that represent history should be replaced entirely with ones that demonstrate history accurately. Should the panels not be replaced, extensive wall labels and text panels should accompany it to point out and counteract the errors and misconceptions it represents. The wall could be an object lesson about how the viewpoints of the era in which it was created was an informing factor in this Eurocentric view. Correction of the history on the digital site should follow the same format.

Last, we suggest that you might want to contact Dr. Matthew Warshauer in the History Department of Central Connecticut State University. He has done extensive work around revealing hidden and erased histories, particularly as it relates to non-European populations in Connecticut. I believe he may be best placed to give advice on this matter. Should you choose to contact Dr. Warshauer please feel free to share this assessment with him.

Ramin Ganeshram               Cheryl Bliss
Executive Director                Chairperso

58 responses to “Westport Museum’s “River Of Names” Letter

  1. I was going to purchase the final tile depicting the Westport Museum’s purchase of the Westport Historical Society, by a non Westport resident, thus infuriating the entire town. I thought maybe the tile would picture Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as representing the new Westport Museum!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I think it can be a teaching moment to include side panels and labels, providing more information than what the tiles showed. So reinstall it (perhaps at Town Hall). And show people how history evolves. Whatever you do, don’t destroy it. That would be a missed opportunity.

  3. Joyce Barnhart

    The library would be smart to do something, or they’ll have a very hard time getting donations if they ever try a similar fund-raiser. I doubt any Westporter who bought a tile expected the mural to become something in a booklet and a computer program that will eventually fade from memory. Very bad public relations!

    • Tabitha Nguyen

      Donors are aware things change, and many organizations are savvy to not commit to restrictive conditions by donors.
      By capturing the work electronically, it has now been archived for posterity for future generations, and can be easily accessed by far more people in the digital realm. Not a bad solution if the tile wall is not able to be physically installed in a new space per the artist’s restrictions.

  4. Wait… I changed my mind. I don’t want to tarnish Newman’s and Redford’s stellar reputations by an association with the Westport Museum. After all, both Newman and Redford were Westport residents.

  5. Bobbie, Thank you for the correction.

  6. No problem (as they now say).

  7. “It is our opinion that should the River of Names be re-installed, the tiles that represent history should be replaced entirely with ones that demonstrate history accurately. Should the panels not be replaced, extensive wall labels and text panels should accompany it to point out and counteract the errors and misconceptions it represents.”

    I support reinstallation, somewhere, as it was originally conceived, with additional material as needed to update and refresh.

  8. Ranim Ganeshram’s and Cheryl Bliss’s letter points out, quite eloquently, the errors and omissions found in the River of Names tiles. Omitted were many painful incidents and attitudes that were corrected years later.

    But the wall was created to celebrate the new Library. It depicted many joyful things — not massacres, slavery, bigotry, thievery. If those were shown, the wall would have been very depressing, in my opinion.

    The errors were not deliberate, and the wall was created with the best of intentions. And the many contributors deserve to have their contributions honored.

  9. Ranim Ganeshram’s and Cheryl Bliss’s letter focus on the literalism of the tiles and ignore the joy they bring to so many residents. Is it really that awful that the facts may not be totally accurate? Even the Bible has inaccuracies and exaggerations. There’s mention of many who lived for over 700 years. What should we do with the Bible because it’s full of exaggerations which are inaccurate?

    • Tabitha Nguyen

      Jack, yes, absolutely to your first point, it is awful they are not “totally accurate”, which is kind of an understatement imo after reading the full assessment by the library. Since many folks don’t have a robust understanding of geo-political history, a library (the beacon of democracy) presenting accurate historical representations is very important. But your second point presents an interesting idea. If the bible was updated for historical accuracies the world would have a much better teaching guide, especially in the new testament, where love rules, according to Christ.

  10. The mural depicted a moment in time when many wrong things were happening compared to today’s standards. However it is difficult to see how far we have come and have to go as a society, unless we show where we have been. It is wrong to sterilize every depiction of the misdeeds that happened over the last few hundred years in America. I believe we all learn by comparing the evil to the good and that causes us to move on in the right direction. My family donated to the mural project and expected it to survive our existence. Why not keep the mural and have a narrative that says that many of the things depicted on the mural are not acceptable by today’s standards but portray a Westport over the past few hundred years.

    • Let me answer your question with a healthy dose of (depending on your perspective) realism or cynicism.

      To the Library, this is all about money. But to say it is all about money regarding a project (that itself was a fundraiser) wouldn’t fly – especially as the stated plan was to return the mural.

      They needed a better reason than money, so they suddenly sought a cultural vetting of the mural. Suddenly, it’s no longer about money. But they aren’t putting it back up, because it is all about money.

      I’m sorry that yours and other families were mislead. But, hey, you can go look at a digital copy.

  11. Please don’t be mean. Let’s save this treasure and move on

    • Eric: I remember your late mother Martha, Staples ‘37, the widow of Harry Wassell. Harry was one of 3 Wassell brothers, each an Army Air Corp pilot and each killed in action in WW II within a span of 15 months. Yes, your Westport roots do run deep!

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

        Bob, you were always very good to my late mother. She never recovered from the loss of Harry. However, she married my father in 1948 who she met through my Aunt Evelyn Buchroeder Parker, wife of Al Parker who was better known as “The Dean of Illustrators” during the golden age of magazine illustration that spawned what really put Westport on the map as an artists colony maturing into the center of artistic talent (anybody remember Famous Artists Schools?) which it was for many years until it became the place where affordable classic homes became McMansions and the quaint and politically irrelevant Westport Historical Society attained its current/rebranded faux identity as the clearinghouse for “history and culture.” Write this down and keep it in a safe place because the Museum of History and Culture will I forecast soon be offering a substantial sum to get the copies. It doesn’t fit the narrative (aka “The Party Line”)

    • As a parent in this town, who’s teenagers spend time at the library, I would appreciate commentary on the mural, and its Euro-centric misrepresentation of the actual history. It is important to prepare children for the multi-cultural and global world they are walking into. That means having cultural understanding of our countries history. Nostalgia is no reason to continue passing on inaccurate depictions of history.

      • Abby, this is where wokesters go astray. The mural is not seen as problematic because of any material factual errors. The complaints are based on a failure to include events related to so-called marginalized groups. Any history is going to emphasize some things and overlook others. It is fine to argue we need more attention paid to this or that group of people, but it is wrong to claim failure to do so is “misrepresentation” or “inaccurate.” In fact, it is very arrogant for someone to claim that historical narratives that insufficiently emphasize the things they happen to think are most important are false. You could argue the mural is Euro-centric, which I assume really means white-centric, and you are entitled to that opinion, but it is a “representation” of history and not a “misrepresentation.” Along these lines, if someone provided a history of Westport that focused 80 percent on people of color, I wouldn’t have the right to call it false or inaccurate, but might be justified in claiming it overly emphasized certain themes. We can’t have a productive dialogue when one party deludes themselves into thinking their opinions, preferences and priorities are true, correct and accurate. Intellectual absolutism like this will only breed conflict.

  12. Werner Liepolt

    The Taliban censors destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

  13. Westport Museum for History and Culture…. I want my brick back…The one we donated to the Westport Historical Society.
    Your repeated portrayal of the Indigenous People being White is inaccurate as well. Remember this was a depiction and coloration of the tile’s vary. Not everything is perfect and we learn from historical mistakes but your divisive approach and ridiculous nitpicking on such a wonderful tile mural is disgraceful. Additionally, Mr. Harmer and the Library Board seemed to have contributed in a major way to this debacle.

  14. If the mural will not be hung up, an apology should be made, and all donations should be returned.

    The historical society can offer all the advice they want, but until they restore Bill and Ann Sheffers name, which was sold out for profit, actually honor and preserve westport history, and stop plugging personal accomplishments such as horrible cookbooks and injecting personal progressive misleading politics…they will never be regarded or respected.

    • Robert M Gerrity

      The senior Sheffers or my classmate? And what has Ann, ’66, had to say about that? Anything or just dismissive silence?

  15. “Myself, Cheryl Bliss (chairperson, history educator and archivist), and various researchers here at Westport Museum have reviewed…”

    Call in a writing tutor, please!

  16. It is sad to read attacks that are aimed at fellow Westporters who have pointed out how the River of Names got it wrong originally. Their corrections were presented in a civil manner and included suggestions to preserve the display by updating it with current historical fact ( that no one is disputing).

    The messengers were being attacked- not their message.

    This is Westport’s opportunity to attain equivalency to many southern towns and cities that removed Dixie civil war statues from municipal locations and/ or placed information explaining that the statue was dedicated to folks who were defending slavery through insurrection against the Union of the States.

    Let’s stop attacking and spend our energies finding a place for an amended updated preserved River of Names. The Library ( inside or an outer wall). Somewhere in Town Hall. In one of our schools where lots of kids can see how history from one era can be corrected by later factual discoveries.

  17. esp speaks to this well since Twilight Zone was partially birthed in Westport, … the vibe this whole ‘eliminate the history tiles instead of add to them’ reminds me of, ‘the obsolete man’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=54&v=U3quruHpcuo&embeds_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&source_ve_path=MzY4NDI&feature=emb_logo

    • Great example, Susan, but not sure how much Westport added to the series beyond the setting for “A Stop at Willoughby.” (And the aspects of Westport he explored in this episode were not exactly complimentary.)

      Serling lived in Westport during the early-to-mid 50s when TV was heavily live and based in NYC, a la the story line in “My Favorite Year.”

      By the time of this great 1959 Mike Wallace interview promoting “The Twilight Zone” launch, however, he had already decamped to L.A. along with most of his colleagues in the TV production industry.

      Please see the interview. It’s awesome and gives you a great insight into the man and his motivations.

      • NB – Another thing missing from the mural, and the discussion, is the plethora of media people — both creatives and “suits” — who lived here. But, hey, it’s only a mural, not a history book or encyclopedia.

      • so glad you appreciated my Twilight Zone reference 😉 I knew my association between WSPT and Twilight was ‘extra’ but it’s for a good reason: I met his wife in WSPT on Main Street in like the early 90’s. I was home fr college for summer, working at Barney’s on Main St for summer job, she came in and I was helping her, and when she heard I was going home after work to tuck into Twiight Zone Marathon (it was a stormy 4th of July weekend, all parties canceled) she let me know who she was. I was thrilled enough to just have met her, but when she even came back in with a book of episodes and signatures of cast members on it, I was extra thrilled. I thought she still had a house there but she must have just been visiting close friends there. such a sweet, lovely, chic lady. and that show is SO meaningful, prescient, esp now, unfortunately.

  18. Late last night I spoke to a former employee of the Westport Museum and this is a direct quote, “It has pretty much become a case study for how not to manage a local historical society.”

  19. Tabitha Nguyen

    My teen daughter has a piece of paper pinned on her bedroom wall. It reads, “Keep your cash, I want change.”

  20. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    While I share your disgust, I think you’re missing a key point. Maybe a separate tile wall should be created and tiles sold containing the points of refutation. But leave the original gift wall as it stands, unmolested. It was a gift of love. If the library no longer wants it then so be it. What they’re doing at the instigation of the culture commissars is no different than a child accepting a new bike from a dear aunt on Christmas, riding it into the ground for 20 years and then going back to the dying aunt, telling her the gift was the wrong color and demanding a new Tesla EV or you won’t go to her funeral. Insult, Injury, Injustice, Indignity this story has them all in one neat, tidy, cultured package.

  21. I agree totally with your comment – “But we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to this mural, and as noted it can easily be supplemented by a plaque on the side that goes through all the talking points that some people in our community feel are important. ” I think that’s what I said in my post and exactly what the Westport Museum for History & Culture folks stated when they pointed out the historically incorrect misinformation conveyed by some of the tiles and a way to correct them. After all, we have to learn from the past, so as not to repeat the mistakes made in
    the past.

    • I think you are giving too much credence to the critics. Not mentioning something that is of particular importance to a political activist is different from “misinformation.” I suggested something on the side to appease the critics though to be honest I don’t think it’s necessary. In no way should the mural be modified or altered. You don’t go in a Maoist fashion and rework a work of art because it’s politically incorrect. What I worry about here is that we are conceding too much ground to the critics and creating the wrong impression that the mural is deeply flawed. It’s not.

  22. Because it’s not necessary, or helpful, unless all you want to do is vent. Everyone’s a victim these days.

  23. I notice that, for all the talk of “inclusion” by the library and museum people, there is no mention of Westport’s Italian-Americans – nor does there seem to be in the mural under discussion.

    My understanding is that southern Italian immigrants played an outsized role in building Westport and providing services to its growing population during the 20th century.

    Moreover, they faced grinding poverty, exploitation and discrimination, including the frequent stereotype of being dangerous criminals, while in fact, they were overwhelmingly law-abiding and many served as leaders of the police and fire departments, as heroes in the military, and even as judges.

    Personally, I recall slurs like “greaser” and “wop” used against Italian-American kids, much more often than I — as a Jewish kid — ever heard anything that could be deemed antisemitic.

    I also remember dismissive comments made against Westport Italians by some high-minded liberal folks around here, because Italians tended more toward social and political conservatism than the newer, and richer, NYC transplants who dominated Westport’s political class in the 2nd half of the century.

    The library and museum people do have it right that history reflects the biases of the time — the present moment, and present company, INCLUDED.

  24. Elizabeth Thibault

    I love the additional context with the full history as we currently know it, and I love the artistry of the wall tiles. Anyone who saw it in person can appreciate the magnitude of the piece and couldn’t help but stop and admire and often read it. The electronic version loses all of this and is a waste of electricity without the actual physical art giving impact. However, if the wall is put in place and these details are included with the problematic tiles, you will actually reach an audience for that information. Otherwise, out of sight, out of mind. Isn’t it better to get this information and detail in front of eyes? (Or is someone also motivated by a less noble concern that it doesn’t match the current aesthetics of the physical space?)
    I know those who donated appreciate the library and the service it provides, as well as the beautiful art of the tiles. Earthplace has a tile wall in its entrance by the same artist and we literally donated THOUSANDS of dollars for the honor to sponsor our tile. If someone was going to destroy it, I’d be infuriated if it wasn’t offered back to me to save. It’s disrespectful if the library and its trustees won’t at least do this. Find a solution, this current plan is an embarrassment.

  25. Westport takes yet another ride on the magic morality time machine

  26. I wish the letter had been far more balanced in its criticism of the wall. Some comments seem downright petty.

    For instance, they are correct in saying that George Washington rode a white horse. But why say he would have arrived in a carriage in 1789 when the tile is placed chronologically long before he was president?

    The National Hall comment is fascinating. But what other shows were performed there? To focus solely on minstrel shows fails to show a complete picture of the times.

    And as far as the 1818 Connecticut Constitution is concerned, yes, it clearly disenfranchised anyone but “white males.” Hello, can we also say it explicitly disenfranchised women?

    I am not saying the comments made in the letter are wrong. And corrections should be made. But true history should look at all sides, not only through a narrow lens.

    I wish the wall could be installed with a touchscreen overlay, so that all these points could be elaborated on in a thoughtful, balanced manner. Let it remain as an example of a moment in time, but with room for growth as our knowledge and views evolve.

    • Robert M Gerrity

      The letter is badly premised, badly thought through, and written to a preconceived outcome – the Mural is TRASH. It is an argument FOR ERASING HISTORY, not learning more about it and teaching from it. Warts and All and then some is the correct approach to knowledge.

      Now, many of the stated facts are accurate, I’m sure. But the Fundamental Fact is that, prior to 1860, there is NO PART of American cultural and economic growth that was NOT powered by the profits from American Slavery (c.f. Edmund Morgan book of same name, etc.) Hello, Wall Street!

      This kerfuffle is also part of the history of Westport that needs to be investigated, written up and not forgotten.

  27. Agree that the web version of the mural is absolutely terrible. It’s just as stupid as the idea of chipping out the purportedly offensive tiles and glueing in PC replacements.

    For that matter, why don’t we go around to all the churches and other faith-based organizations (including YMCAs outside of the major metros) and demand they pull down every depiction of Jesus having blonde hair and other northern European features?

    He almost certainly looked more Dustin Hoffman than Charlton Heston and we don’t want to whitewash Biblical history, do we?

  28. This “kerfuffle” (as Mr Gerrity puts it) is itself a big deal, as big as what happens to the mural. This should serve as a wake up call to all fair minded residents regardless of political affiliation. This is a direct result of the DEI-mania that has overtaken every element of this town from the schools to the playhouse to the library (let’s not forget the Abigail Shrier controversy) to town government. Westport is particularly vulnerable to this over-reach because we are big-hearted, empathetic and self-reflective. But it has gone too far and will continue on its path of destruction so long as good people keep their head in their sand and nod along (out of fear of being slandered). In October 2021 the outgoing First Selectman (under severe pressure from local activists and we all know who they are) signed off on a DEI resolution that essentially obligated town officials to base every decision on undefined “equity” criteria. The DEI resolution has been weaponized to force the hand of every decision-maker in town. The resolution itself is an abhorrent violation of democratic and Constitutional principles- in effect establishing an official town religion or philosophy. The mural should be hung but the DEI resolution must be canceled before it does anymore damage to our wonderful town. This “kerfuffle” didn’t just happen. Specific people made it happen, and there needs to be accountability. We can’t just treat the symptom, we need to understand the cause.

  29. Disclosure: my family is affiliated with the Museum.

    What I don’t understand is by what mechanism is the Westport Museum responsible for why the Library can’t hang the mural, which was designed for the library, in the newer, bigger, better Library?

    For over 3.5 years the Library has been looking for reasons to bury the mural:


    The library failed to take the mural into account when going through the renovation process years ago. That is not the Museum’s fault.

    Yet many seem to be disparaging the Westport Museum, which has no oversight or veto power over the mural, over a letter requesting its input a year ago about what changes would need to be made (or noted next to it) to preserve the mural in a way that is historically accurate.

    Was the request made of the Museum disingenuous in that it was looking for a reason to bury the mural or were they actually looking for input? Based on the excerpts of the letter posted above it would appear to the naked eye a considerable amount of work went into the reply.

  30. Andrew Colabella

    Bill Harmer holding a meeting on the River of names today at 5 PM. Myself and other fellow RTM members strongly promote transparency and community involvement.

    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81712291323?pwd=cTl0TnJVa0c1OWh2UXAzemNvT0JQUT09 (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81712291323?pwd=cTl0TnJVa0c1OWh2UXAzemNvT0JQUT09)

    • John D McCarthy

      Thanks Andrew for the link. Nice of the library to give 36 minute notice. Seems appropriate.

  31. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Glad the library finally “Woke” up. I hope the transition at the museum formerly known as the Historical Society finally gets the focus and oversight from the town government that it deserves.

  32. Don’t feel bad.
    I’m on the RTM, and a member of the Library, Museum, and Arts Committee, and this was the first I heard mention about a meeting.
    If there actually was a meeting, it was very brief. I was logged in at 5:25ish and there was no meeting going on.
    Transparency and community involvement, indeed.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Well, kind sir, no one can say that YOU’RE not being transparent. But the situation “is what it is” as the over worn cliche goes.

      My question is: “What Next?” I think a proud town’s soul is on the line.

    • The meeting was canceled.

  33. Let’s work to get back the Westport Historical Society as an entity OWNED by the Town of Westport!! Also, I know the IDEAL person to run it and whose lifelong burning desire would be to run a historical society like the one we had! For those who know me and my family, I promise you this person would dazzle you with their ability!!!

  34. Typical flyspecking fiddle-faddle from the Grievance Museum. You would think it had been asked to critique a dissertation – rather than a folksy fundraising vehicle. As a resident who has been targeted by this broken organization (at least twice that I know about), I certainly recognize the creepy, imperious tone.

    • Robert M Gerrity

      “A folksy fundraising vehicle:” well-tuned, accurate description. That’s just what it was. And if turned over to the Town proper for installation in Bedford El (oops, sigh, Town Hall), then it can continue to be such, adding new tiles over the next 100 years. As has been suggested several times above. A True Learning Experience! A Win-Win for Everybody, including those individuals who only consider it TRASH to be disposed of.

      • I wonder if town hall is really any better than than library. At least the tile wall could be properly understood within the context of its purpose if it remained in its original setting. As for town hall, I seem to recall that it was recently cowed into canceling our town’s huge, state issued, custom made, bicentennial plaque (leaving, for some reason, only its legs) by the censors from the Grievance Museum and TEAM. Apparently the plaque (drafted by, ahem, the Westport Historical Society and approved by State Historic Commission as part of a state-wide bicentennial celebration) was deemed offensive, incomplete, unwelcoming and misleading.

        Sound familiar?

  35. Andrew Colabella

    Another disappointment, as soon as I posted the link to what was suppose to be today’s meeting with the Library, it was cancelled 15 minutes before it started.

    I logged in to find a few names and faces, six at most.

    The RTM appointed these members to the Library.

    I cannot speak for all of my colleagues, but of the ones I have spoken to, we come to realize that through major push back in the past avoiding the topic, the library was never going to put that mural back up.

    I may be one vote, but I can vote to not put those persons responsible for this charade back on the board.

    I may be one vote, but I would be greatly proud to call a meeting, bring all stakeholders together, face to face, and find a solution.

    Art should never be deleted, cancelled, removed, or hidden. Based on the letter from WHS, they want to correct it, not remove it. Based on TEAM’s response, they want to correct it, not remove or throw it out. While that is the interpreting I get from their letters, actions speak louder than words.

    And so far, the lack of action of the Library after being redone twice in my life and receiving donations and promoting inclusivity, is certainly lacking including the gift of many from 1995, like a quilt, handmade and put together to show our pride of our town.

    It was also brought to my attention that certain stakeholders were purposely not invited to todays canceled meeting.

    I may not agree with these certain members all the time, but include everyone no matter where you stand…you might learn something from them.

    To those on the Library Board of Trustees, act now, before myself and key RTM members do.

    • Robert M Gerrity

      Class action lawsuit from the alive tile donors. Regretfully, only lawyers and law suits can ensure people who have prudential responsibility, act responsibly.

  36. Abby gordon-tolan

    I wonder what makes folks afraid of change? Why do people push back on progress. These items were harmful to people. Why would we not correct the errors of our past? I agree we could put the mural up with context. I also agree that the community should have a say, at least involve the RTM, but I still agree with their choice. I am also unsure why community members are so scared of TEAM. I attend their meeting and have never witnessed anything nefarious. TEAM meetings include many members of our community including our First Select Woman, Police Chief, Faith leaders, too name a few. As well all are welcome.