NPS Battlefield Interpretation Grant

CRIS Radio Awarded $46k Federal Grant to Make 
Connecticut’s Revolutionary War Stories Come to Life

Take the CrisRadio Audio Tour.

Redding, Conn.— U.S. Representatives Jim Himes (CT-04) and John Larson (CT-01) announced that the Connecticut Radio Information System (CRIS Radio), a 43-year-old nonprofit radio-reading service, was awarded a $46,241 federal grant to create an accessible smartphone audio tour of a Revolutionary War winter encampment at Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding, Conn. 

In addition to the CRIS Radio audio production team, the project includes archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, archivists, and graduate students who will research the roles of women, Native Americans, and African Americans on how they helped the soldiers survive the harsh winter of 1778-79 at the site. The original stone-built fireplaces remain at the site, depicting where rows of wooden huts housed the Continental Army soldiers. 

Reenactor soldiers at Putnam State Memorial Park
Reenactor soldiers at Putnam State Memorial Park

“Putnam Memorial State Park marks an important part of Connecticut’s history,” Himes said. “This site housed 3,000 Revolutionary War soldiers in 1778 and 1779 and the encampment played an indispensable strategic role for the Continental Army, allowing soldiers to protect the Hudson River Valley and Long Island Sound. I’m thrilled that this federal grant will bring the stories of the Revolutionary War to life and make the park’s history more accessible.”

Congressman Larson also praised the grant and project. “The Battlefield Interpretation Grants program will fund innovative projects that tell digital and accessible stories from our nation’s rich history, Larson said. “CRIS Radio’s collaborative project will shed light on the contributions of African Americans, women, and indigenous people during the American Revolution that are too often left out.” 

“Connecticut’s role in the Revolution was extensive, and I was proud to lead the decade-long effort in Congress to designate the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route as a National Historic Trail,” Larson said. “With the recent discovery of the Redding Encampment, this new grant will allow CRIS Radio to work with local historians and archaeologists to capture the Continental Army’s experience during the 1778-79 winter, and especially the perspectives of the soldiers and residents from diverse communities that have gone unacknowledged.”

The Redding encampment is designated as Connecticut’s first State Archaeological Preserve due to its importance. Emeritus state archaeologist Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni has characterized the Redding encampment as among the most important undisturbed Revolutionary War sites in the country. 

Construction and development pressures have significantly impacted other Revolutionary War encampment sites in the U.S., making the relatively undisturbed 53-acre Redding site so rare.

“The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) and CT State Parks are grateful for the many partners and federal funding that will help share this story,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “The cultural history protected at Putnam Memorial State Park is a narrative that connects us across identities and communities. Just as Passport to the Parks has enabled visitors in CT registered vehicles to park for free at all CT State Parks, we envision this audio tour to enable visitors to learn about some of the history that makes Connecticut such a fascinating place to visit and live.”

CRIS Radio Board Chair Paul A. Young said the grant award will help the 43-year-old nonprofit make another important public space more informative for all visitors, and more accessible for people who are blind or unable to read due to other disabilities. “This grant will expand our CRISAccess Audio Tour service, enabling people of all abilities learn more about the sacrifices endured during the Revolutionary War in Connecticut,” Young said.

CRIS Radio, a 43-year-old nonprofit, is the state’s only radio-reading service, broadcasting human-narrated articles published in newspapers, magazines, and store sales flyers. In addition to its 24/7 broadcasts, CRIS also produces audio versions of children’s classroom materials and Braille children’s books for early readers, Spanish-language magazines and newspapers, and audio tours using QR Codes and GPS technology. 

For this project, CRIS will leverage GPS and GIS technology on its CRISAccess Audio Tour smartphone app to ensure access to the Redding encampment’s stories can be accessed by all visitors, including those with disabilities.

About Putnam Memorial State Park: Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding, CT was the site of the Continental Army’s 1779 winter encampment under the command of General Israel Putnam. The site consists of remains of the encampment, reconstructed log buildings, and seasonal museum and visitor center which are open Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, fishing, and picnicking in the Park. For group tour reservations, call 203-938-2285. The Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset.  Established in 1913, the mission of the Connecticut State Park System is to provide natural resource-based public recreational and educational opportunities through a system of state park and forest recreation areas, environmental centers, and nature centers that provide an understanding of, access to, and enjoyment of the state’s historic, cultural and natural resources.

About the Project Team:

Conn. Radio Information System: Scott Baecker, CRIS Operations Director; and Diane Weaver Dunne, CRIS Executive Director and project administrator.

Conn. State Universities and Colleges: Dr. Katherine Hermes, Professor of History, Central Conn. State University; Leah Glaser, Professor / Coordinator of Public History, Central Conn. State University; Dr. Kevin McBride, Associate Professor, Anthropology, UConn; and Nicholas Bellantoni, Emeritus State Archaeologist, professor emeritus, UConn; and Dr. Anthony Martin, Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Assisted with the Archaeology Laboratory for African & African Diaspora Studies at CCSU).   

Archivists: Lizette Pelletier, State Archivist; and Allan Ramsey, Deputy State Archivist.

Conn. Historical Society: Andrea Rapacz, Director of Collections; and Dr. Karen Li Miller, Research Historian.

State Dept. of Education: Steve Armstrong, State Dept. of Education, Social Studies Consultant. 

State/Community Partners: Leon Brown of the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation, Board Director, Institute of American Indian Studies; Elizabeth Shapiro, Director of Arts, State Historic Preservation Office, DECD; Jonathan Kinney, Director of Operations, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, DECD; Catherine Labadia, Staff Archaeologist, DECD; Nathan Hale, Putnam Memorial State Park Supervisor, DEEP; Lori Brant, Assistant Parks Director, DEEP; and Ellery Thomas Leary, Secretary, Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Memorial State Park, and interpretative guide of the Revolutionary War encampment (Redding, Conn.)

Mobile Technology: Steve Jacobs, president, IDEAL Group; Saurabh Gupta, Chief Technical Officer, IDEAL Group.

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