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).

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