Rosalie “Rollie” Thorne McKenna (1918-2003) was a Stonington-based photographer, who in her long career, broke gender boundaries in her profession and creative boundaries in her photography. She is known internationally for portraits of 20th century literary giants such as Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath and the architecture of Europe and Latin America. The Stonington collection of McKenna’s photography, housed at the Woolworth Library, has been a point of great interest to Stonington Historical Society staff, board, members, and visitors alike. It depicts a way of life in Stonington that is gone but not quite forgotten.
The Rollie McKenna Project was created after the completion of an organization-wide strategic plan in 2017. The plan determined that the Stonington Historical Society should explore more recent historical topics, including 20th-century subject matter. We hope that this time period will be of great interest to our audiences and will help preserve and better understand our local history and culture.
In 2018, the Rollie McKenna Project was successfully funded with grants from Connecticut Humanities & the Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation. The project will feature a new exhibit of Rollie’s Stonington photos, a new publication of her work, and selections from oral history interviews conducted over the past year. These will further offer an intimate portrait of a woman who shared her view of the people and the world around her. In the course of her work, McKenna revealed a great deal about our town’s history, culture, and the values of a small Connecticut village. It is our goal to continue to share and celebrate her work and legacy. The exhibit is titled: A Village Love Affair, and is set to open Friday, November 2, 2018 at the Richard W. Woolworth Library.