218. Woodruff Farm Barn Museum

Lots of Wood. Ruff, Ruff Wood
(Google Maps location)
September 18, 2011

“How do you possibly find time to go to all these museums?” people often ask. I submit the Woodruff Farm Barn Museum as evidence as to why it’s really not all that hard to do. Total time spent in the museum: 3 minutes. Total percentage of museum I experienced: 100%.

Sometimes these little museums with nothing new (to me) in them are just what I need after a summer of very few museums due to our having a baby and organizing a fundraiser. It’s like dipping your big toe in the pool before jumping all the way back in – which I’m eager to do, trust me.

So yes, in a way, I love museums like this. Museums that have no right to call themselves museums, but they do so therefore according to CTMQ Bylaw 17.11, it is a museum. This dump is part of the annual Guilford Agricultural Fair. Ah yes, late summer in Connecticut… Fair time! Not being from these parts, and never really liking fried food or beasts of burden, I’ve never understood the allure of the Town Fair. In fact, I kind of hate them.

Blasphemy! Yeah, yeah… But you probably hate them too. Especially the big ones where you have to park miles away and wait in dusty or muddy lines forever and ever and then pay through the nose to see the same crap you’ve seen for the last 20 years there. Sorry, they’re just not for me. But, I came to realize at some point that several of them have museums. From Berlin to Orange, from Harwinton to Durham… some fairs have museums. (Some have more than one!) And so I go.

Sure, with the boys now I guess they could be more fun and in reality, we didn’t hate our time at Guilford. $25 bucks for all of us to get in (parking and admission and lying about Damian’s age), only a 10 minute walk to the fairgrounds and not too crowded at all. Damian was “okay” which is pretty good I guess so we enjoyed our family day at the fair.

(I’ve now been to 4 or 5 fairs and have thought about adding a section on this site about them; nothing more than photos and captions… we’ll see.)

We ate some food (props to the Thai tent with some low-priced, good-tasting, meat-free food) and wandered around the place. Farm animals, fried food, bad art, veggie contests, death trap rides… Yup, all the same stuff. Actually, the Guilford Fair had some MONKEYS and a lemur and a baby kangaroo, so that was pretty rad, if also a bit sad.

The Museum was a little hard to find, as the fair map called it an “antique barn.” But the Fair’s website is clear: this is the Woodruff Barn Farm Museum.

It was, understandably, empty and desolate upon entry. It was dirty and dark and, well, it wasn’t very good at all. I’ve seen a ton of these old farm implement displays around the state and this collection was broken down, dirty and lacked signage.

One fantastically decriptive sign

The other sign, proving that we were indeed in a museum

Now, to be fair, I’m not quite clear on the full history of this place. I have a feeling it used to be housed somewhere else and more properly cared for. There was one allusion to the Dudley Farm, which is in town and is the current home of a much better farm museum. I found an old Courant article from 2002 from which I could draw the conclusion that this barn used to be part of the Dudley Farm. And since the Dudley Farm’s barn now hosts weddings and such, maybe they donated this barn to the town and hence the fair. That’s my guess. The article said, “The recently opened Woodruff Barn Farm Museum features antique farm machinery and photo logs of a barn moving.”

The Fair’s website states, “The Woodruff Barn Farm Museum showcase much of Guilford’s agricultural history through donations made to the Agricultural Society.”

Regardless of how it came to be, it really needs some TLC. Why is there a random old stove with junk on it in here? No one kept stoves in barns. I did find the holy grail for me though – a small crooked piece of paper stuck on the wall with the words, “Woodruff Barn Farm Museum.” Good enough for me!

And I did enjoy the special touch of the giant “Abandon Hope all ye who Enter Here” sign at the back of the barn. It kind of gave us pause, as we were all the way at the back of the dark and barn full of pointy objects.

Damian gives the ironic thumb’s up.

Fortunately, we escaped unscathed. Unfortunately, none of us learned a thing other than you must go to Guilford, CT in September if you want the UNDISPUTED World’s Best Sundae. I mean, there can be only one, right?

More on the Guilford Agricultural Fair


Cost: Free or expensive, depending on how you look at it
Hours: Open during the Guilford Town Fair, every September
Food & Drink? Crappy fair food abounds!
Children? Since they’ll be with you at the fair, sure
You’ll like it if: You’ve never been to any other museum with stuff, ever
You won’t like it if: You like signage
Freebies: None

For the Curious:

Guilford Fair
Woodruff Barn Farm Museum

4 responses to “218. Woodruff Farm Barn Museum”

  1. chick110 says:

    I’m guessing they desperately need donations so that’s why the sorry state of this “museum”. They’re going for the pity bucks.

  2. Dana says:

    Museums like this depend on volunteers. And sometimes one can’t see what’s in front of your own face (like unmounted photos peeling off the wall).
    The Guilford Fair is nice. I’ve only ben once but there was an Elephant to ride on when I was there.
    When I go to fairs I try to concentrate on the critters and Stuff People Made.
    Berlin and Harwinton Fairs this weekend! The season is winding down.

  3. Steve says:

    Thanks, Dana. I’ve been to 220 museums in CT and I’d guess about 180 depend on volunteers. Some are great, some aren’t. There’s no point in trying to pretend otherwise.

    But I love stuff like this as it gives me something different to write about.

    We went to Berlin last year (I’ve yet to write it up!) which had TWO museums, both slightly better than this one. And yes, we’re hitting Harwinton this weekend – where there are THREE museums!

  4. Peter says:

    Thai food at a fair doesn’t seem quite right. Not when some Midwestern state fairs are serving fried sticks of butter. No joke.

Leave a Comment

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism