Museum of Darien, Mather Homestead receive $15K to upgrade: ‘Times have changed’

DARIEN — Two cultural centers in Darien have received thousands of dollars in federal funding as part of ongoing COVID-19 relief for humanities organizations across the nation.

The Museum of Darien was awarded $10,000 and the Mather Homestead received $5,150. The money, administered by CT Humanities, comes from a 2021 federal program called Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan, or SHARP.

Both organizations chronicle the history of Darien and the region.

More than $640,000 was awarded to 69 nonprofits across the state, with Darien receiving two grants. Grants are project-based, with priority given to projects that increase equity and inclusion as well as public access through technology.

The Mather Homestead will use its $5,150 for an audience assessment, Executive Director Heather Raker said.

“Even though we’re a very old historic house, we’re a relatively new foundation created in 2017,” Raker said, adding that several new educational centers have also recently opened. “We have grown our membership, our subscribers and our programming. So the key question for us is, ‘Are we doing a good job? How do we optimize our programming to best fit the needs and interests of the local community’?”

The Museum of Darien will use its $10,000 to update its catalog of all of the museum’s inventory. The museum received the maximum grant amount.

Sarah Lexow Keena, a volunteer at the museum who runs educational programming, was partially responsible for applying for the museum’s grant.

“We said, ‘If we can get something, great,’ because as much as history stays the same, times have changed and I’d like to see a few things upgraded,” Lexow Keena said.

The museum plans to hire an archivist to document its entire collection, which includes historical papers, photographs and objects dating from the 17th century. Lexow Keena said she hopes digitizing some of the museum’s collection will help usher in a new technologically savvy and more visitor-friendly era for the museum.

“We’re very excited about this,” Lexow Keena said. “The last few years have been tough without school field trips or a lot of visitors. If we can do something to help, especially in this day and age with so many things online, that’s great.”