Current Exhibitions

Amistad: Retold

On view

The reconceived exhibition “Amistad: Retold” takes a new angle on the familiar story of the Amistad, centering the people who led the revolt and their collective actions to determine their own lives. It also foregrounds New Haven as the site of their incarceration and organizing by Black and white abolitionists.

The 1839 Amistad Revolt was led by 53 West African captives who were being trafficked from Havana’s slave markets on the schooner La Amistad after being kidnapped from their homelands, despite European treaties prohibiting the Atlantic Slave Trade. The Museum notes the diversity of the Amistad captives—their multiethnic, multilingual, and economic backgrounds, with trades that ranged from rice farmer to blacksmith, in addition to weavers, hunters, and merchants. 

Incarcerated for nearly 19 months in New Haven, the Amistad captives worked closely with anti-slavery activists who formed the Amistad Committee and connected with networks of engaged citizens to organize and fundraise for their legal defense. Artists, particularly those based in New Haven, gave representation to the movement by creating engravings and paintings that enabled the public to envision the circumstances of the captives and recognize their individuality and resolve in protecting their freedom. A number of those significant works made their way to the New Haven Museum collection.

Visitors will be immediately surprised by the new visual experience of the gallery – its vibrant colors, transformation of the space, as well as a new acquisition – the color serigraph of artist Jacob Lawrence’s “Revolt on the Amistad,” created in 1989 to commemorate the Amistad Revolt sesquicentennial. A cover image from a Golden Legacy comic book offers a 1970s pop-culture adaptation of NHM’s iconic Sengbe Pieh portrait, which was painted in 1840 by Nathaniel Jocelyn at the time of the trials. The painting has returned to view after two years, following its inclusion in “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” a major traveling exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. 

In response to questions and comments from students and teachers during workshops, the new exhibition includes a large-scale map that charts the voyages of the Amistad rebels. The map provides context about the continual resistance to the slave trade in West Africa and across the Atlantic, as well as the changing Trans-Atlantic politics in the years preceding the Amistad Revolt in 1839. Visitors will also appreciate a time-lapse map created by that visualizes the expansion of the slave trade despite its illegality in the mid-19th century. Significantly, the exhibition highlights the crucial leadership of Black abolitionists, incorporating excerpts from Black-owned and abolitionist newspapers. 

Shining Light on Truth: New Haven, Yale & Slavery

On view February 16 through Summer 2024

Museum admission is free during the exhibit’s run, made possible by Yale University

Shining Light on Truth presents evidence of the essential role of enslaved and free Black people in New Haven and at Yale. It celebrates Black resistance and community building. And it illuminates knowledge kept alive in archives and memory for more than three centuries—even when the dominant culture chose to ignore, bury, or forget.

The exhibition complements the publication of Yale and Slavery: A History and draws from the Yale and Slavery Research Project’s key findings in areas such as the economy and trade, Black churches and schools, the 1831 Black college proposal, and memory and memorialization in the 20th century and today. The exhibition has a special focus on stories of Black New Haven, including early Black students and alumni of Yale, from the 1830s to 1940. Curated by Michael J. Morand with Charles E. Warner, Jr., designed by David Jon Walker, and presented by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library. Learn More

Profiles: Ruth McIntosh Cogswell and Dorothy Cogswell

On view through Winter 2024

New Haven’s vibrant art scene has a long and storied history, and the New Haven Museum’s newest exhibition, “Profiles: Ruth McIntosh Cogswell and Dorothy Cogswell,” highlights two remarkable women at the heart of it a century ago. Using works by the Cogswells and the students they inspired, “Profiles” illustrates a small portion of a pivotal time in the Elm City. The exhibition will remain on view through December 30, 2023. 

Ruth McIntosh Cogswell (1885-1944) grew up in New Haven and attended the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1905-06. She was an art educator and artist renowned for her intricate silhouette work. Her daughter, Dorothy Cogswell (1909-2008), was the first woman to earn an MFA from the Yale School of Fine Arts and later served as chair of the Department of Art at Mount Holyoke College. The exhibition’s photographs, watercolors, pencil drawings and silhouettes give a glimpse of the New Haven arts scene in the early 20th century and allows present-day audiences to consider the role women played in establishing the New Haven arts community that exists today.  Learn More



On view through Winter 2024

A post-industrial alternative history of a New Haven manufacturing icon, this new exhibit documents the underground history of the former New Haven Clock Company factory on Hamilton St. that survived urban renewal to house a variety of visual and performance artists, punk bands, skateboarders, and music and adult-entertainment clubs, such as the Brick N’ Wood International Café and Kurt’s 2, from the 1970s to the 2000s. Including original and archival video and photography and artifacts, the exhibit highlights some of the people, personalities and artistic endeavors once present in the building.

World-class industry, mimes, R&B, hardcore punk, avant garde local artists. If you ask around, practically everyone in New Haven knows a story about the old Clock Factory.

Learn More


Signs of the Time 

Temporarily off-view

On view in the Museum’s upper rotunda, this exhibit features 19th– and 20th-century signs from Elm City businesses, selected from the permanent collection by Collections Manager Mary Christ. The assemblage will appeal to long-time residents and history buffs alike, prompting memories and eliciting comments on New Haven’s storied past.

From Clocks to Lollipops: Made in New Haven


clocks and lollipops

Elm City Pins Company Trade Card, circa 1876, lithograph on cardboard, Collection of New Haven Museum

From the Colonial era to the present day, New Haven has produced an astonishing variety of goods, including hardware, carriages, automobile parts and accessories, firearms, corsets, clocks, carpeting, rubber overshoes, clothing, musical instruments, silver-plated wares, candy, and more. Guest Curator Elizabeth Pratt Fox selected more than 100 objects, advertisements, trade cards, photographs and other items for this fascinating look at the production of consumer goods in New Haven over the past 300+ years. 

Form and Function: Decorative Arts from the Collection



Form and Function: Decorative Arts from the Collection highlights a small selection from the renown collections of historic design and decorative arts at The New Haven Museum. Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, the New Haven Museum has long been a repository for some of Connecticut’s decorative arts treasures. If aficionados are familiar with the magnificent colonial furniture, silver, and paintings in the Museum’s collection, its important holdings of nineteenth- and twentieth-century objects are less well known. In curating a new installation, guest curator Benjamin Colman wanted to create unexpected dialogues between objects made at different times in different media. Spanning from baroque-furniture to contemporary design, the pieces on view are arranged into four thematic groups: Politics, Childhood, Business, and Eclectic Homes. These objects were made with functional forms to serve a useful purpose. Yet in their exuberant designs and bold style, they also demonstrate the spirit of the individuals who created them, and the generations of people who used them.

Mr. Colman is Assistant Curator of the Florence Griswold Museum

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