Welcome to Digital Windham!
This website is dedicated to the history of the township of Windham, CT, and to the history of Willimantic in particular. Windham is located on the lands which belonged to the Nipmuc and Mohegan tribes. The land was eventually acquired by English settlers through a transaction with Uncas, the son of the Mohegan's Sachem in the mid-1670s ("Joshua's Will"). In 1692, Windham became a town. Since the early 1800s, Willimantic grew to become its urban center, and one of the most important manufacturing centers for textiles, specifically silk and cotton thread, produced by the waves of immigrant workers who settled in town. Digital Windham seeks to provide insight into every aspect of the history of the town and its people throughout the centuries.
Digital Windham is the brainchild of Drs. Anna Kirchmann and Jamel Ostwald, both professors of History at Eastern Connecticut State University; it has been made possible by an anonymous donor and by support from the Eastern community. This ongoing project gives students hands-on practice in researching, writing, and creating digital resources for local history. Different students and classes will contribute specific materials to the larger project, and receive practical experience in historical research, and using digital tools for public history. We also hope that the site will be of interest to the members of the general public, not only for its historical narratives, but for the information on the town itself.
The inaugural Digital Windham course was taught in Fall 2020, when students created a timeline of key events in the town's history, as well as case histories of notable people, places and events in its past (see Browse Exhibits). This included several walking tours of important neighborhoods, although COVID required us to be properly masked and distanced:
Students from HIS388 Fall 2020 Digital Windham in front of one of the buildings in the American Thread mill complex on the Willimantic River (L-R): Richard Freebairn, Russell Hagios, Liz Bartoshevich, Max Turner, Molly Charland, Matt Coppinger, Lindsey Dore, Tyler Hall, Briana Dube.
Eastern History and American Studies graduate Allen Horn ('21) was also instrumental in helping create the digital version of the timeline.
Digital Windham's exhibits and item collection rely upon the many resources available on the history of the town. These sources include digital (and digitizible) artifacts donated by the public, publications available online and in various libraries, and especially the town's rich archival and reference documents available in Eastern's Center for Connecticut Studies, held on the 4th floor of Eastern's J. Eugene Smith Library.
For advice on how to navigate this site, hover over the 'About Digital Windham' tab at the top of this page and choose 'How To Use This Site.'
We want to acknowledge that the Windham and Willimantic area of eastern Connecticut is located on the traditional land of Nipmucs and Mohegans, the Native people who stewarded it for generations. We remember their connection to this region and respect their history.