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Explore Empathy and Stories In New “Coming to Rhode Island” Exhibit

By Megan Fischer, Associate Director, Providence Children’s Museum


 Step back in time at Providence Children’s Museum to explore a playfully reinvented version of its popular Coming to Rhode Island exhibit. The dynamic environment invites visitors to embark on a time-traveling exploration of the state’s history, immigration and culture through stories and engaging hands-on activities that encourage empathy and respect for diversity.

 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 the state – how they lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found.

 While Coming to Rhode Island explores history and culture, above all the exhibit is designed to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up our world. It’s about understanding that diversity makes our communities richer and stronger, and about cultivating compassion for others by making personal connections to their stories. Research also shows that pretend play is one of the best ways to develop empathy and other socio-emotional skills, including taking different perspectives and relating to and communicating with others. At a time of divisiveness and discord in our country and world, empathy is more important than ever.


 Discover these exciting exhibit updates:

  • Discover an imaginative new gallery highlighting the story of John Quigley, a pre-famine Irish immigrant who helped build Fort Adams in Newport from 1831 to 1841. Enter an immersive kid-sized replica of the Fort with brick and stone corridors and tunnels, join the construction crew to build walls and arches, don period appropriate costumes, explore what home life was like at the Fort, and investigate tools and documents of the trade from the 1800s and about the Quigley family’s history.
  • Step into the “Story Center” to experiment with an array of intriguing hands-on activities and resources that investigate culture and diversity and encourage empathy, building on the learning that happens through pretend play in the story galleries. Play games and hear music from around the world, build with “face blocks” to create unique faces and expressions, create and share self-portraits, and more.
  • Explore a wealth of different stories – stories of Rhode Islanders past and present, stories of people of different cultures and backgrounds, stories that encourage families to think about and appreciate what’s unique about themselves and others.

In celebration of Coming to Rhode Island, discover a series of special programs exploring construction and Irish culture in November and December. Build with bricks, engineer tunnels, enjoy lively performances of energetic Irish tunes, and more. Learn more.

Coming to Rhode Island and related activities are free with $9.00 Museum admission.  For more information, visit www.ChildrenMuseum.org.

Get a peek at the process of creating Coming to Rhode Island on the Museum’s blog!

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by 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. The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with the Fort Adams Trust and The Museum of Newport Irish History.

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