Bruce Fraser knew that history is not the study of the dead, but of the living, at an earlier point in time. It is about the great and the powerful, but also about the lives and hopes of ordinary people. It tells us where we are from, connects us with a sense of place. Few did more to explore and explain the place between Boston and New York than Mr. Fraser.
Mr. Fraser, 63, executive director of the Connecticut Humanities Council since 1982, died Sunday after battling cancer for nearly a year. A compact, athletic, intense man with a Swiftian wit and Yankee work ethic, Mr. Fraser was a gifted historian as well as a skilled advocate, organizer and fundraiser. He built the humanities council into one of the largest and most effective such agencies in the country, and then used it, in the words of Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Executive Director Helen Higgins, "to transform Connecticut's once sleepy heritage community into a vibrant industry."
His accomplishments are myriad. He wrote a history of Connecticut. He developed "The Connecticut Experience" — an award-winning 19-part TV series on the history of the state. He developed reading programs for children and adults and established the council's Cultural Heritage Development Fund, which has granted more than $13 million to help sustain Connecticut's heritage and cultural institutions. He helped create mutually beneficial partnerships among arts and heritage groups, and was most recently immersed in one of his most ambitious projects, an online encyclopedia of Connecticut history. It should be ready in 2012.
If you've been to a museum, historic site or cultural event anywhere in the state, if you've read his books or seen his marvelous television specials (available on the humanities council website at http://www.ctculture.org), w or taken part in a book discussion at a library, you have been touched by Bruce Fraser. He was a warrior for knowledge and insight. He made Connecticut a better place. He fought the good fight. He won't easily be replaced.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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