BRISTOL - The New England Carousel Museum, with its rich past that has allowed it to expand, works to educate younger generations about the history of carousels and help them form deeper appreciations.
The museum, located at 95 Riverside Ave., has been a Bristol-based nonprofit educational organization for 28 years, said Executive Director Louise DeMars, who has held that position since the museum’s inception.
At that time, the museum did not own the building in which it is currently located, DeMars explained.
Then in 1998, the museum was able to purchase the building, and in addition, it took control of the Bushnell Park Carousel in downtown Hartford.
“We thought our museum and the Bushnell Park Carousel would be a good union,” DeMars said. “It was an exciting time. A lot of good things had happened and we were able to expand. Here in Bristol, we created three new galleries and two new fine art galleries. We also added a restoration department, the Museum of Fire History and the Museum of Greek History.”
“The development of the restoration department has also been incredible. We have some of the best carousel artists here restoring carousels,” DeMars continued.
The museum has a working carousel, which it acquired five years ago, and it won the Annual Historic Award from the National Carousel Association two years ago.
“Those have opened the doors for us to branch out and introduce people to the museum and the building,” DeMars said. “The award has added to our expansion in so many directions, and to the reputation we have developed on the national level.”
Much of the museum’s history has led to the development of educational programs and the museum staying true to its mission statement, DeMars explained.
“We want to educate children to do what we do one day, and the history of carousels,” she said. “Our whole focus is on education in one way or another. We hope people walk away with a deeper appreciation for the subject. I’m convinced that the future of carousels rest on education.”
The future of carousels, and preserving their history, are as important as ever right now, because of their depleting presence, DeMars noted.
“At the turn of the century, there were thousands of carousels in operation in this country,” she said. “Today there are less than 200 operating carousels left in this country.”