Friday, February 3, 2017

On Display

The “geometry gallery” in our ThinkSpace exhibit features changing displays of natural and handcrafted objects that provide strong visual representations of spatial thinking, which is fundamental to innovation and scientific creativity.

Exhibit Developer Jessica Neuwirth installs the new case.

Discover the newest installation, 3D models and 2D tessellation patterns from the Arthur Loeb Design Science Teaching Collection at the RISD Nature Lab. These materials are used as teaching tools to illustrate some of the principles of pattern, symmetry and structure found in nature and the built environment.

Many thanks to our colleagues at the RISD Nature Lab for loaning these objects, which will be on display through June.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 – A Record Year!

Did you know that in 2016, Providence Children’s Museum:
  • Welcomed a record 168,270 onsite visits, 30% free of charge. 
  • Brought engaging hands-on activities to 1,100 Head Start preschoolers and 250 school-age kids through after-school and summer programs at inner-city community centers, as part of its AmeriCorps program. 
  • Hosted over 1,400 low-income children and their family members at free Museum family nights. 
  • Conducted therapeutic visits for 438 children and parents in 152 court-separated families, as part of the Families Together program. 
  • Provided nearly 400 charitable memberships to low-income families. 
  • Engaged over 1,800 visitors with research by the Museum's academic collaborators in its Mind Lab
  • Welcomed 9,492 members in 2,077 families. 
  • And MUCH more!

All told, 46% of the Museum’s 2016 operating budget supported services for children and families in need.

Thank YOU for making this important work possible!

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Wishing you a wonderfully PLAY-filled and inspiring new year!

Can you identify where in the Museum you can find each of these images?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Fostering Empathy Through Pretend Play

By Suzy Letourneau (Research & Evaluation Specialist) and Robin Meisner (Director of Exhibits)

The Museum’s recently reinvented Coming to Rhode Island exhibit explores history through four story galleries – an English colonist’s farmhouse (1640), the new Fort Adams worksite (1835), a Cape Verdean packet ship (1892) and a Dominican bodega (1961). The exhibit uses these stories to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up the world. Empathy is the ability to sense, understand and share other people’s emotions, and it allows individuals to take others’ perspectives, communicate and collaborate.

Children develop social and emotional skills like empathy as they begin to understand their own identities and appreciate differences between themselves and others, and research shows that pretending is a natural avenue for this development. In Coming to Rhode Island, children engage with each story through pretend play, allowing them to practice social and emotional skills in developmentally meaningful ways.

Toddlers (and even infants) start to notice and react to others’ emotions, a foundation of empathy. They also start pretending in simple ways and playing in parallel with other children, setting the stage for social skills and later forms of pretending. In the exhibit, a toddler might offer fake food to someone who says they are hungry or share with another child while playing side by side.

Children ages 3 to 5 begin to engage in more complex forms of pretend play, from wearing a costume or using props to creating stories with different roles. Children in Coming to Rhode Island might pretend to cook in a kitchen, build a fort or sail a ship. When pretending together, they talk about their ideas and decide how a story should unfold. In the process, kids learn that other people might not think and feel the same things they do, and they practice seeing other’s points of view and learn to work through conflicts.

Children ages 5 to 7 start to understand similarities and differences between themselves and others, and can take many different perspectives. When playing together, they create elaborate stories and practice empathy by imagining what others might feel in different situations. In the exhibit, kids might take on roles that are very different from their own lives. They might think about what life was like for the people whose stories appear in the galleries, and they recognize differences between their own lives and those who lived in the past.

Children ages 7 to 11 begin to recognize that different people might have different interpretations of the same situation, and that multiple perspectives can be equally valid. They also start to understand that people’s feelings are influenced by what others think and how others act towards them, helping them develop deeper empathy for others. In Coming to Rhode Island, older kids might reflect on how other’s previous experiences shaped the decisions they made and their perceptions of the world.

While children begin developing empathy and perspective-taking very early on, these skills continue to grow throughout their entire lives. In Coming to Rhode Island, older children and adults might question stereotypes and challenge assumptions, and appreciate the diversity represented in our community.

Click here to learn more about Coming to Rhode Island and get a peek at the process of creating the exhibit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Coming to Rhode Island Art

One of the Museum's core values and defining features is the quality and beauty of its learning environments. To enrich visitors’ experience and inspire creative exploration, the new Coming to Rhode Island spaces incorporate the work of these additional outside artists:

  • The photographs on the walls of the Story Center at the end of the time tunnel are by Brown University graduate Lucas Foglia, who lives in San Francisco and whose work has been widely exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia. All of the photographs were taken in Rhode Island, many at Southside Community Land Trust’s gardens, and strikingly showcase the state’s diversity.

  • The intriguing interactive installation in the Story Center resulted from a collaboration with Pawtucket-based French artist Philippe Lejeune. The sculpture’s reflective surfaces challenge perception and encourage exploration of how something looks from a different and unexpected perspective – a fundamental skill for understanding and engaging with people from different cultures. The installation is part of a larger body of Philippe’s work, called The Glass Project, a group of pieces which are “experiments in transforming the way we see.”
  • The illustrations of John Quigley’s descendant and his brother and him leaving Ireland were drawn by illustrator and former Museum AmeriCorps member Maris Wicks, whose work can be seen in each of the Coming to Rhode Island galleries. To create the illustrations, Maris worked from photographs of John Quigley’s fourth great granddaughter, Margo, and historic images of his hometown in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Click here to learn about other Museum art works.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Making the Coming to RI Murals

One of the Museum's core values and defining features is the quality and beauty of its learning environments. Throughout its history, the Museum has made a strong commitment to art, commissioning or accepting donations of work from artists – many of them local – to include in exhibits and public spaces. To enrich visitors’ experience and inspire creative exploration, the new Coming to Rhode Island spaces incorporate the work of several outside artists.

The murals and historic figure in the new Fort Adams gallery were painted by Rhode Island artist Harley Bartlett, who is influenced by the late 19th and early 20th century American realist painters and whose work can also be seen in the Coming to Rhode Island Dominican gallery, Fefa’s Market.

Commissioned to depict the people, landscape and seascape at Fort Adams in the early 1800s, the murals extend many of the exhibit’s physical elements to show the Fort’s scale and surroundings. To create the murals, Harley…
  • Visited Fort Adams with the Museum’s exhibits team and Fort staff to select appropriate views to depict in his paintings. 
  • Blended photographs and historic images to create period appropriate concept drawings, and projected these images onto the walls of the Museum’s Fort to figure out scale and placement of objects. 
  • Painted the murals on large pieces of canvas in his studio in Cranston, RI.
  • Installed the murals onto the Museum’s walls, making adjustments and adding finishing touches once the murals were in place.

Projecting a concept image based on historic images onto the gallery's walls.
One of Harley's projected concept drawings, paired with the subsequent mural in progress.
Mural installation!

The murals add vibrancy and depth to the Fort and surrounding environment, helping to create an immersive space that inspires visitors' imaginative pretend play.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Coming to Rhode Island is NOW OPEN!

Last night, we celebrated the opening of our imaginatively updated Coming to Rhode Island exhibit with a playful party for 150-plus members, supporters, partners and other friends. The dynamic environment, which offers an interactive, time-traveling exploration of history and culture through stories, was received with rave reviews!

For hundreds of years and continuing today, people have come from all over the world to what is now Rhode Island – whether voluntarily, coerced or forced – and everyone has stories about where their families are from and how and why they came. Coming to Rhode Island shares real stories of real people who have immigrated to our state – how they lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found – and is designed to encourage respect for diversity and build empathy for others by making personal connections to their stories.

Pretend play is one of the major ways that children of all ages explore stories in Coming to Rhode Island, and is an important means of engaging with history and culture. Research also shows that pretend play is closely related to developing empathy and abilities for problem solving, taking different perspectives, and relating to others – skills which develop with time and practice through early childhood and into adulthood.

Take a look at some scenes from the opening event and several of the exhibit’s components:

Upon opening Coming to Rhode Island, kids immediately flocked to our partial replica of Fort Adams, scrambling onto the deck and constructing a wall of foam bricks!

They also did a bit of gardening in the plot adjacent to the fort’s boarding house.

In the vibrant new Story Center, visitors were intrigued by an installation conceptualized by Pawtucket-based French artist Philippe Lejeune, which challenges perception and encourages discovery of how something (or someone) looks from different and unexpected perspectives.

A self-portrait drawing station, which asks visitors to look in the mirror, draw their portraits, and share something that’s important about them that nobody sees.

At this station, build with a set of blocks with diverse eyes, noses and mouths to create unique faces and expressions.

Museum staff seriously engaged in playing one of several versions of mancala!

Browse books representing many people and cultures in a cozy book nook.

And the exhibit’s talk-back board, which prompts, “The United States is made up of people from many different places, of a variety of races, who have many different religions and beliefs – and we’re all Americans. Who are you?”

But pictures can only tell you so much – please come see for yourselves! Go to for visiting information and a calendar of related events. And click here for a peek at the process of creating Coming to Rhode Island.

Tremendous thanks to our many community partners – especially the Fort Adams Trust and The Museum of Newport Irish History, for collaborating with us on the development of our Fort Adams gallery. And our gratitude to the funders who generously supported the exhibit: The Champlin Foundations; The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of November 14).