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Greenwich Almanac: The Bruce Museum

The Bruce Museum , a Greenwich staple for history, education, art and science, sits high on a hill overlooking Greenwich Harbor. For nearly a century, it has provided 100,000 visitors annually with access to exhibits as well as educational and family events.

The museum was built as a private home in 1853 for Francis Lister Hawks, a lawyer, clergyman and historian. In 1858, Robert Moffat Bruce, a wealthy textile merchant, bought the house and surrounding property, where he lived until his death in 1908. He willed the building to the town of Greenwich on the stipulation that it be used as "a natural history, historical and art museum for the use and benefit of the public." In 1912, the first exhibition featured local artists who were members of the Cos Cob Art Colony.

Today, the museum contains 15,000 objects in its eight permanent exhibits as well as art, science, history, textile, and ethnology collections. Permanent exhibits include "Changes in Our Land" and "Formation of Our Land," featuring environmental history with global and local perspectives; two ecological exhibits called "Every Object Tells a Story," and "The Earth's Minerals;" "Natural Resources—Human Imprints," an exhibit focused on man's historical impact on the earth; and three exhibits with a local focus, including "Life Between the Tides," "Community Connections" and "Woodland Ecosystems." The museum is also host to more than a dozen temporary exhibits annually.

An offshoot of the Bruce Museum is the Seaside Center, a beachside museum located in Greenwich Point Park in Old Greenwich, educating visitors about the ecology of Long Island Sound. It features a marine touch tank and guided nature walks for the public as well as scientific research. In spring 2011, the seaside center will move into space at the newly renovated Innis Arden Cottage .

Although the museum is a prime destination for local schools, museum educators also run programs such as the Brucemobile for schools and "A Lifetime of Looking" for seniors.

In addition to exhibit-related events, the museum annually sponsors two outdoor festivals — the Crafts Festival in May and the Arts Festival on Columbus Day — featuring original work from national and local artists and craftspeople as well as performances and food. Held the first Saturday in June for the past 23 years, the Renaissance Ball black-tie gala is a highlight of the social season in Greenwich.

The Bruce Museum has been voted the best museum in Fairfield County for the past five years and is accredited by the American Association of Museums, an honor granted to fewer than 5 percent of all museums in the country.

The Bruce Museum is located at 1 Museum Drive in Greenwich. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m., Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5. Bruce Museum members are admitted for free. The museum store is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 1 to 4:30 p.m., Sundays. For more information, call the museum at 203-869-0376.

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