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Southington’s Barnes Museum displays namesake’s Christmas memoirs


SOUTHINGTON — All 17 rooms in the Barnes Museum now have a touch of the holiday spirit.

Christmas trees, bows and ribbons, wreathes and more are sprinkled throughout the house on mantles, tables and doorways. Each room is connected by a theme called “The Memoirs” that Marie Secondo, the museum’s curator, picked this year.

Hanging from 11 Christmas trees, posted on walls or next to old toys are diary entries from members of the Barnes family around Christmas time in the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. They include entries from Norman and Alice Barnes and their son, Bradley.

The Barnes family built the house in 1836 and it was donated to the town by Bradley Barnes in 1973. Items owned by the family are on display year-round.

With 52 family diaries, Secondo had hundreds of entries from which to choose. She recreated the diary entries on the computer, printed them and laminated them for display.

“I had a lot of inspiration,” she said, laughing. “It’s all the little things that make this house so unique, especially with the memoirs this year, it makes it more real.”

The Christmas tree in the parlor of the house contains toys from when Bradley Barnes was young. Resting on the tree’s branches among the red ribbon, bulbs and candy canes is a card game, a book, a tiny rocking horse and a small, cast iron train.

A diary entry by Bradley Barnes in December 1892 reads:

“Christmas day. We are to have our dinner at Grandma’s tomorrow. After dinner, Papa, Mama and I called there.”

Another entry on the tree from his mother Alice Barnes on Dec. 25, 1860, read:

“I gave that cone frame I finished yesterday to my brother Frank for a Christmas present, as it is Christmas today.”

Across from the tree is a small, orange and iron wind-up toy Ferris wheel with yellow seats. Next to it is a picture of Bradley Barnes and another entry from Dec. 25, 1893, that reads:

“I hung up my stocking and found them well filled this morning with fruit, candy, nuts and presents… Papa and Mama gave me a Ferris Wheel that winds up.”

Secondo found many of the items in the house that were mentioned in the entries, which made the house “come to life.”

Other rooms contain holiday books, scrap books and photos of the family. The dining room has blue and white china set up on the table and a large Christmas tree next to the window decorated in blue bulbs and blue dried hydrangea flowers.

“I set the table as if they were going to have a nice Christmas dinner,” Secondo said.

The porch was decorated as a “Fairy Wonderland” by the Southington Orchard Valley Garden Club, with different trinkets, dolls, 35 fairies and some Barnes family memorabilia. In years past, the club helped embellish a room in the museum or the gazebo in the yard, said Marjorie Muzyczka, the president of the garden club.

“It took us a couple of weeks,” Muzyczka said.

Secondo has help from volunteers, but starts collecting items for the holiday decorations mid-October.

“It’s a labor of love,” she said. “The people that come through for the holidays are in awe.”

fduffany@record-journal.com (203) 317-2212 Twitter: @FollowingFarrah



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