The Keeler Tavern Museum Website

by Jorie Thuon

The Keeler Tavern Museum is a historic home and museum located in the town center of Ridgefield, CT. Once a farmhouse, tavern, stagecoach stop, post office, hotel, and home to famous architect Cass Gilbert, the house has a long and rich history as well as a strong connection to the local community as demonstrated by its tireless outreach efforts, including through school programs, exhibits, and events. These outreach efforts and more are outlined in the museum’s newly updated website, which serves as an introduction for new visitors or those limited by travel constrictions by focusing on the tavern’s importance, history, physical and electronic collection, and various social events.

Upon entering the website, the visitor is greeted first by an enthusiastic description of the museum and its history accompanied by photos of highlighted events; in this case, the museum’s newly minted digital learning programs and an upcoming village exhibition. A bright red banner across the top of the homepage draws attention to the museum’s most recent advocacy efforts, including funding they’ve secured to make improvements to their collection and grounds. This flashy display serves the dual purpose of allowing the visitor to see the museum’s growth and to publicly acknowledge those who made the growth possible.

The search bar divides the website into ten separate tabs, each with subdivisions. These tabs break up the mass of information given on the website into different areas of use. The visit tab, for example, appeals to in-person visitors by providing information about hours of admission, walking tours, and local attractions while the education tab appeals to educators, guardians of young children, and those searching for professional development workshops. Bulkier than the others, the history & research tab directs researchers and those interested in exploring the museum’s collection to search through the archive and its large electronic database.

Although Keeler Tavern Museum is, at its core, a historical attraction, the website also promotes the social events hosted by the museum and gives information on how different parts of the campus, such as the garden house, can be rented out for weddings and corporate events. In this way, the website serves not only to advertise the historic site but also those attractions which support and fund it.


This trend of self-advocacy continues throughout the website as constant attention is placed on the role of the museum in the community, its long history, and even its economic impact on the town, state, and country. The support tab, headed by a paragraph describing the importance of funding to the museum’s running and accompanied by scrolling pictures of education events, serves to garner an effective emotional plea to visitors while simultaneously collecting donation information into one place. In addition to the support section, volunteer and collection donation descriptions are scattered throughout the site and links to donate resources pop up at various points while exploring.

Museum websites are constantly evolving objects and the Keeler Tavern’s online platform is no different as is made clear by the abundance of pandemic news present throughout the site. Rather than condense their response into a single announcement, however, the museum has made a great effort to insert relevant information into the already existing tabs as well as developing explanations for newly implemented programs, such as the digital learning programs for K-8 students. These explanations are often lengthy, however, and can become overwhelming for the visitor by making it difficult to sort out important information.

Beyond the main website, the museum has made an effort to highlight their mailing list, social media outreach, and trip advisor accounts in order to stay connected with their patrons on all platforms. Additionally, a link to Destination Ridgefield, a website showcasing the town’s culture and destinations, and a description of the locally famous Battle of Ridgefield serve to further ground them in the surrounding community and into their visitors’ lives.

Further Reading

Keeler Tavern Museum:

Destination Ridgefield:


Can You Fit An Archivist In A Backpack?

by Emily Murphy

CDAT Project Director Chaitra Powell shares our Archivist in a Backpack kits with UNC visiting artists with the flutist group Flutronix.
CDAT Project Director Chaitra Powell shares our Archivist in a Backpack kits with UNC visiting artists with the flutist group Flutronix.

Can you fit an archivist in a backpack? With this provocative question, the team at the Community-Driven Archives Project seeks to break down barriers preventing entry into the field of archives. At the root of the question is a simple truth: a budding community archivist doesn’t need all that much to get started — just the right tools.

Community-Driven Archives (CDA) is an ongoing project that began in April 2017, and is currently in its last year of grant funding through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Working under the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, CDA seeks to support historically marginalized communities in sharing and preserving their stories. The program acknowledges the many gaps in the historical record, and strives to empower communities to collect and preserve their own histories rather than imposing the curation of a professional archivist. This model builds sorely-needed trust between communities and the archives. It’s not about creating perfectly processed collections to be locked away in UNC’s vault; it’s about returning that decision-making power to the people. This flexibility allows communities to make the best decisions for themselves and their materials. “It’s a “figure-out-as-you-go”, one foot in front of the other kind of process, collaborating between institutions, communities, and newly-found colleagues,” writes Claire Du Laney, the former Outreach Coordinator for CDA on the project’s blog.

Archivist in a Backpack kits on site at a history project in Mexico.
Archivist in a Backpack kits on site at a history project in Mexico.

The “Archivist in a Backpack” initiative is one strategy that the project has undertaken: team members put together dozens of backpacks, each containing an archives starter kit, and send them to community archives and grassroots historical organizations all over the country. The kits are specialized for different kinds of archival work, some containing recorders and tripods for collecting oral histories, and some containing scanners for digital preservation. By putting the equipment in backpacks, the archives becomes both accessible and portable — no longer an intimidating, gatekeeping facade. The team at CDA also provides supplementary workshops, webinars, and other assistance to the backpack recipients, but the main tools for success are in the communities’ hands.

Reaching beyond the immediate community of Chapel Hill, CDA has partnered with organizations across the South. This bold, sweeping effort expands the outreach program’s impact and supports the preservation of underrepresented histories all over the region. Community partners include organizations like the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP) and The Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA), which seek to preserve historical Black voices and stories. The community partners use the “Archivist in a Backpack” project as a resource in their own activism and preservation activities. The backpacks create new connections between past and present, allowing these organizations to carry on important work such as combating systemic racism and gentrification, preserving the history of the civil rights movement, and returning control of the historical narrative to the community. Many of these community partners are only just getting started, and CDA’s goal is to support them through these formative stages, ultimately creating a network of self-sustaining community archives.

In its “About” page, CDA emphasizes mutually supportive partnerships between professional archivists and communities, with the ultimate goal of “provid[ing] communities with the tools and resources to safeguard and represent their own histories.” By empowering communities to take control of their own historical narratives, CDA and the “Archivist in a Backpack” program turn traditional archiving on its head.

Further reading: