Abiding River: Connecticut River Views & Stories
March 28-April 28, 2024
Opening Reception: March 28, 5:30-7:30 pm
In Abiding River: Connecticut River Views & Stories, Janet L. Pritchard photographically traces our changing relationship with a wild and harnessed river’s rise, decline, and tenuous revival. Using a photographic method guided by archival research, Pritchard’s project addresses two framing questions: How does the Connecticut River influence life in its watershed, and how do people impact the river? Tracing the river’s flow from its source near the Canadian border 410 miles south to the Long Island Sound, these photographs reveal a landscape of many uses.
Writers have described the Connecticut River (CR) as the life artery of New England, or its cultural cradle, a region distinct in topography, history, culture, and ecological challenges—climate modeling predicts dramatic temperature increases and unprecedented flooding. Before European colonization, Native peoples thrived here, relying on the river for sustenance, transportation, and trade. It later became a settlement route for Europeans from the coast to the interior and a place of technological innovation so significant it is called the Silicon Valley of the 19th century. The CR Valley was a flourishing center of water-powered manufacturing and home to the now disappearing geographically indicated crop Connecticut Shade Tobacco. However, when an economy built on waterpower collapsed, mills moved south, and industry followed, leaving the river to rot. Katherine Hepburn described the river as “the world’s most beautifully landscaped cesspool” in a 1965 documentary. The Clean Water Act of 1972 helped effect change, and pollutants decreased. The river’s history is deeply intertwined with the local cultures, and understanding these connections is crucial to appreciating its more considerable significance and the challenges it faces.
In Abiding River: Connecticut River Views & Stories, Pritchard’s photographs reflect her scholarly research and the beauty of the Connecticut River, a system influenced by nature, culture, and history with a future yet to be written.
The exhibition will include specimens of aquatic and marsh plants of the Connecticut River and its watershed, on loan from the George Safford Torrey Herbarium, in the Biodiversity Research Collections of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn.