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Norwich exhibit looks at Benedict Arnold as hero
Question of the Day
NORWICH, Conn. (AP) - A new exhibit on display at the Slater Memorial Museum is the latest effort to bring heightened visibility to a subject Norwich has deliberately ignored for centuries.
“Key to Liberty: Benedict Arnold, an American Hero on Lake Champlain,” which is hosted by the Norwich Historical Society in cooperation with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, tells the story of a general named Benedict Arnold who led his Naval fleet into battle with the British on Valcour Island in October 1776. While it was a victory for the British, Benedict stalled their forces long enough for the Continental Army to prepare a defense of New York.
Arnold was a Norwich native, born in the city in 1741.
Norwich Community Development Corporation President Robert Mills said the exhibit is a departure from the city’s tendency to shove Arnold under the rug. And it is the city’s latest attempt to capitalize on being the hometown of someone of such notoriety. The Spirit of Broadway Theater plans to produce a musical about Arnold later this year.
“This is in your face kind of stuff,” Mills said, referencing the 23-panel traveling exhibit that gives a tangible reality to Arnold’s accomplishments as one of Gen. George Washington’s top generals before he turned traitor.
“It’s going to last a long time and make a lot more impressions,” Mills said of the exhibit.
Slater Museum Director Vivian Zoe said Arnold’s name has become synonymous with the word “traitor,” but he wasn’t the American turncoat, and not the most damaging either.
Five years after the battle described in the exhibit, Arnold had switched sides, aiding the British in burning New London in 1781 during the Battle of Groton Heights. Eighty-five Americans were killed.
Lottie B. Scott, a member of the historical society’s board of directors, said she thought it was a good idea to bring Arnold’s story back to the city. “There comes a time to recognize his achievements as an officer,” she said. “But also, he was a traitor. You’re not going to change history.”
Scott said learning about the past is key to a fuller understanding of the complex man.
Bill Champagne, Norwich Historical Society president, said he brought the idea for the traveling exhibit back with him from a visit to Vermont’s Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
The exhibit complements the upcoming William B. Stanley Lecture Series event featuring Arthur B. Cohn, co-founder and special project developer of the maritime museum, who will discuss on Monday Arnold’s naval battles and the discovery 15 years ago of an intact battleship at the bottom of the lake.
It is an important exhibit, Champagne said, not just because of the Norwich connection to Benedict Arnold, but because it represents a significant battle in the Revolutionary War as well as a treasure trove of well-preserved underwater artifacts.
Information from: Norwich Bulletin, http://www.norwichbulletin.com
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