Located near Ledyard, Conn. on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum can be described in one word, amazing. It was so much more than I ever expected. It is not however, the most user friendly museum I have ever visited. We were lost most of the time and had no idea where we were supposed to go next to maximize our visit. In spite of that, I can’t wait to return and I am sure that after a visit or two it will all make sense to me.
You enter the museum on level three. This is also the level that has the elevator to the observation deck. I suggest that you do this first. The view of the area including Foxwood Casino is quite spectacular and not to be missed. If heights bother you, don’t do this because the walls are glass and there is a glass wall in the elevator as well.
While mentioning the elevators, I have to comment on the ones in the museum. There are lots of them and it makes getting from floor to floor quite easy if stairs are an issue but there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason to how many floors they go up. Every one that we entered did not take us more than one floor. It is again, very confusing. The good news is; every member of staff that we met was very friendly and helpful and able to get us back on track.
There are tours available on the hour for an additional $5 each and considering the difficulties that we encountered figuring everything out, this will be $5 very well spent. Not only that but we passed several of them and they were imparting a great deal of interesting information.
The first area that you visit introduces you to the Mashantucket Pequot people and what exactly the reservation has in the way of services. It is pretty much self-contained with its own fire department, police force and medical services. After the tribe was recognized and received their land back, many tribe members moved onto the reservation.
From here you go down an escalator through an ice tunnel to the time when the native people made their journey to this country across the ice bridge from Asia. There is a section with ice age animals which kids will love and husbands too!
There are lots of interactive exhibits to entertain the kids and this is a popular museum with school groups. In this area there is a film about tools that was very interesting and it is a good chance to take a 15 minute rest after all the walking. This is a large museum with lots of exhibits, more than you can really take in with just one visit. You are introduced to the “Three Sisters” and learn how they were grown. At this point, pick up an Acoustiguide as you enter the next area, a recreated Pequot village.
Expect to spend the majority of your time at the museum in this village. To call it fascinating is a grave understatement. You will learn all about life in this time before the white man intruded on the Pequot. You can find stones around the village where you can sit and listen to all the information on the Acoustiquide. There are also side galleries that have additional information.
The final thing on this level is the movie “The Witness” which documents the Pequot War of 1637. This is not for young children, it is extremely realistic and I was quite shaken by the violence.
Take the escalator back up to Level 2 and learn about how the Pequot survived on and off the reservation. There is a gallery with photos of current tribal members.
The Pequot Museum is one of the most outstanding museums that we have ever visited. You will leave here with a new understanding of the Native American both past and present. There is a small cafeteria with limited food options and of course a gift shop. Plan to spend three hours or more, most likely a lot more, it is that good.
GPS directions to the museum are not always reliable. Click here for directions.