Monday, June 29, 2009

Past Meets Present

Many people don’t know that the Museum’s Coming to Rhode Island galleries tell the real stories of four real immigrants whose families came to Rhode Island from different countries, for different reasons, at different points in time.

Kids travel through the "time tunnel" to discover English colonist Elizabeth Mott's family farm, explore a 19th century textile mill village to learn about the lives of French Canadian mill workers like Louis Goulet, climb aboard Antonio Coelho’s packet ship to join his voyages to and from the Cape Verde islands, and shop and dine at Doña Fefa’s 1960s Latino bodega. Their stories are interpreted with hands-on activities, objects and costumes, letters and journals, recorded voices – and through the eyes of the immigrants’ descendants, all of them children living in Rhode Island today.

The exhibit celebrates our state’s cultural diversity and it’s amazing how often we hear people exclaim, “I know this!” or “This is my story!” But last week, a visitor made connections on a whole new level when he came to the Museum to learn more about his family’s roots. Exhibit/Program Developer Carly Loeper shared this incredible story:

Lindsay greeted a man at the Admissions Desk who introduced himself as John Mott and explained, "I came here from California to research my family genealogy, and I think I might be related to Elizabeth Mott." Lindsay took him upstairs to show him Coming to Rhode Island. John's records matched up, and we discovered Elizabeth's father, Adam, was John's great-great-great-great-great- great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. Adam Mott and his wife and children settled in Portsmouth, RI in 1640.

John came to Rhode Island armed only with a 1973 article written about the excavation of the Adam Mott farm site in Portsmouth and a record from the National Registry of Historic Places. He discovered that there may be a connection to the Children's Museum when his family "googled" Adam Mott's children's names, including Eliza
beth's. "I came out here not knowing if I'd find anything but the farm site, and then I saw this real live exhibit about my family; it just blew my mind!"

I invited John back to the Museum to sort through the files of research about the Motts, done in preparation for the exhibit. We compared maps, family trees, articles, historical document
s and community contacts that revealed more and more of the Mott story. It was like a historical treasure hunt!

After his visit, John followed up with this email: “You are doing a great job of interpreting the Elizabeth Mott story. I know she would be happy with what you are doing. I learned a great deal and … am enjoying sharing everything with the other West Coast Motts...”

John & Elizabeth Mott and Carly Loeper


Laura Hodo said...

Amazing! I have a huge soft spot for that exhibit which is now totally validated by that story!

Megan Fischer, Providence Children's Museum said...

Laura, I knew you'd leave a comment about this post! Wish you could have been here...