Our Museum & History
The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society (NWH & WHHS) is located in the restored 18th-century birthplace and childhood home of Noah Webster, the creator of the first American dictionary and "Blue-Backed Speller", a teacher, lawyer and early abolitionist. The home was restored by the Noah Webster Foundation, a private 501(c)(3) organization, and opened to the public as a museum in the late 1960s. In 1970, the West Hartford Historical Society merged with the Foundation. Today, the museum building includes the historic house, the Jodik Education Center with a working reproduction open hearth, two exhibition galleries, a newly renovated Visitor Reception Center (VRC), and the Hamilton Gallery. The VRC includes a museum shop, a one-room schoolhouse theater, and a long-term exhibit on Noah Webster. The museum holdings also include a diverse collection of decorative arts, manuscripts, books, and ephemeral artifacts related to Noah Webster as well as to the local community.
Each year the Noah Webster House serves approximately 10,000 school children and thousands of general visitors from around the world. An important part of our school services is the many free-of-charge experiences that we offer to at-risk children. The Noah Webster House also provides numerous workshops, summer camps, and a history club for young people.
The museum also offers a broad range of family and adult programs. These include our Kids' First Saturday program which makes the museum a destination for families on the first Saturday of each month, with topics ranging from New England folklore to historic games and music. For an adult audience we provide lectures, book discussions, popular Tavern Nights (raucous evenings with food, drink, folk music, and colonial games), hearth-cooking classes, and our thrilling Halloween program West Hartford Hauntings.
The museum has an ambitious exhibit schedule. Changing exhibits since 2004 include: West Hartford Voices: 1954 - 2004; A Perspective on West Hartford: 150 Years of Life; Witness to War, 1941 - 45: the Soviet Jewish Experience (made possible by the Greater Hartford Jewish Historical Society); The Woman's Exchange: Helping Women Help Themselves; Bristow: Putting the Pieces of an African-American Life Together (winner of the prestigious Wilbur Cross Award from the Connecticut Humanities Council); Paint the Town Red: People, Places and Things in West Hartford (a progressive exhibit in tandem with the West Hartford Art League), and Noah Webster Illustrated. In addition to changing exhibits, in the fall of 2008 the museum implemented a permanent exhibit titled, Noah Webster: Defining American and in 2009, Noah's Discovery Learning Space. A traveling exhibit, West Hartford A-Z can be found at the museum or at other locations around West Hartford. Click here to find where it is this month.