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Fortune as he may have looked in life. Painted by William Westwood, a medical illustrator, based on Fortune's skeleton.
Fortunes Story at the Mattatuck Museum

A New Exhibit

In the spring of 2003, the Mattatuck Museum unveiled a new exhibition, “Fortune’s Story: Larry’s Legacy.” With the aid of new technologies, the exhibit reveals the complex stories of Fortune and his family, the Porter family, and the story of slavery in Waterbury.

Facial Reconstruction

At the recommendation of Dr. Mark Mack of Howard University, the museum engaged forensic artist Frank Bender to prepare a facial reconstruction based on Fortune’s skull, so that the interpretation of Fortune’s story can focus on his life, rather than his image after death. Bender, who has been commissioned by the FBI and police departments around the country in their crime-solving, used scientific methodology to re-create the appearance of Fortune’s face.

The facial reconstruction was part of a life-size re-creation of Fortune that transforms the skeleton, familiar to generations of local visitors, into a scientifically accurate portrait of an historical man. It is the centerpiece of the museum’s exhibit about Fortune and the African American community in eighteenth-century Waterbury. The full figure image of Fortune was created by medical illustrator William Westwood, who based his drawing on a measured study of the skeleton and historical accounts of the clothing of eighteenth-century African Americans in Connecticut. The exhibit unit, which also incorporates video clips of the work of the scientists and the facial reconstruction process, was designed by Vincent Ciulla Design of Brooklyn, New York.

The Manumission Requiem

Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut’s Poet Laureate, was commissioned by the Mattatuck Museum to write a eulogy honoring Fortune. Her Manumission Requiem, read by the author, is also included in the exhibit, bringing an emotional resonance to the stories associated with Fortune’s life and the legends that have grown up around it. The poem is also being published as a book, Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem.

On-Going Work of the Fortune's Story Project

The museum is currently preparing a documentary about the Fortune project and curriculum materials for teachers to use in school classrooms.

The scholars’ advisory panel for the project includes Dr. Susan Lederer, historian of medical ethics at the Yale Medical School; Dr. Gretchen Worden, Director of the Mütter Museum of medical history; and Orlando Bagwell, producer of the PBS documentary series Africans in America.

The project has been organized with the on-going assistance of a community advisory panel, the African American History Project. The committee has worked with the museum on the process of the research and the decisions about the presentation of the material. They have helped the museum organize public programs and public discussions about the material developed during the research. They will help the museum decide what the appropriate treatment of Fortune’s remains should be.

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Fortune's Story: Larry's Legacy
The permanent exhibit which opened at the Mattatuck Museum in 2003.

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Overlay Image
The painting of Fortune as he may have looked in life was based on the photograph of his skeleton. The painting was done by medical illustrator William Westwood.

Facial Reconstruction
The scientific reconstruction of Fortune's face was done by forensic artist Frank Bender.

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Facial Reconstruction
The final relief sculpture of Fortune as he may have looked in life. Created by Frank Bender. Collection of the Mattatuck Museum.

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