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Director Keeps Darien Historical Society Thriving

DARIEN, Conn. — Jack Gault never planned on becoming a historian – it just worked out that way.

As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, he studied chemical engineering. Then he got his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a career in the financial industry.

Even after moving to the history-laden town of Darien 20 years ago, Gault didn't delve into the past until 2005, when he helped form the Talmadge Hill Historical Society. "There was a move to put in a school bus parking lot, so I began doing research into the historical importance of the area," he said. The result of the labor of love was a book, "My Talmadge Hill, A History of Darien, New Canaan and Stamford."

In researching the book, Gault discovered the Darien Historical Society to be a wealth of information and spent many hours delving into its material. So he was familiar with the place when he heard late last year that the society was looking for a new director. Having left the financial world not long before, Gault figured it was a way to finally scratch his historical itch. He began the job in September.

"One of my goals is to run it more like a small business," he says. "We'd like to add evening or weekend hours, since it's hard for working people to get here now." Expanding the society's services would require more resources, and Gault wants to expand its membership from its current 400 families.

"I'd like to see it closer to 600," he says. "There are 6,000 households in Darien, and only a small number support us now." He aims to increase public awareness by staging exhibits such as the upcoming fashion show, which will feature 16 mannequins in period clothing, as well as restoring programs for elementary school children. "We have a lot to offer for a small town," he says.

Gault says the society serves an important role in maintaining the unique character of Darien among its residents. "Without a sense of history and place, it's just another town," he says.

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