You might just get LUCKY! What would you do if you won this handmade quilt “Spring’s Revival” for $1.00? Mary Loftes outdid herself this year this year’s donation that is bursting with color.
Not feeling really lucky, for $5.00 you get six! This quilt will bring new life to any bedroom and draw countless compliments from house guests. All proceeds support the South County Museum, where we offer free admission during COVID to give everyone a chance to step into the past for a brief break from the modern world.
Purchase your raffle tickets today online, in our gift shop, or by calling the office (401) 783-5400. Who knows – it might just be your lucky day…..
Although not in our typical format, the purpose of this modified newsletter is to bring you up to date on what we have been doing here at SCM during these most unusual times.
We closed our doors on March 14 and started working from home. Since there was no telling if or when we could reopen in May, we decided to focus on designing programs that could be utilized by school-age children and parents for on-line learning. I think we were successful in that area. Heather Kisiliwicz, our new Assistant Director, created a “History at Home” link on our website and facilitated ZOOM lectures by authors Christian McBurney and Robert Grandchamp who discussed their latest publications. Both of these generous folks were slated to present lectures this summer, but…. They were most gracious with their time to help us. In addition, photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Mark Starr filmed and edited a 30-minute introductory program on blacksmithing here at SCM.
It goes without saying school field trips were canceled; Family Day and the Taste of Summer Fundraiser went by the board. Blacksmithing Camps for Kids and Adult Workshops were COVID casualties. We did hatch over 200 RI Red chicks thanks to Wayne Durfee and Don Nelson, but the public 4th of July Chick Hatch was not possible. The Folk Art Quilt show was put on hold. And needless to say, we lost four months of admission revenues.
BUT….WE DID OPEN! (mid-July, only on Friday and Saturday) with buildings reconfigured to allow viewing from the doorways. We are not opening the Metz Exhibit Hall because we cannot maintain the Department of Health’s cleaning guidelines for that space.
So, that’s where we are in the COVID Fall of 2020. We will be open Fridays and Saturdays until the end of September. Admission is free as our gift to the community for its support, but we appreciate a donation.
In closing, I would like to thank all of you who continued your memberships. This year especially membership is an investment in history here in South County. I would also like to thank Lynn Wagner, our treasurer, for facilitating a PPP loan, the Champlin Foundation for a substantial COVID-Relief Grant, and Rhode Island Council for Humanities for some COVID Relief monies. We’re hanging on!
So stop by SCM during September. No bad news, no politics, just peace and quiet with history as your guide. Stay safe.
A museum educator’s primary job is to build connections between life today and the past. It is the most rewarding aspect of my job. History comes to life for countless school students who visit the museum each year. My mission: help them connect their backyard, their neighbor’s last name, or the building they pass every day to America’s most historic moments. The current pandemic has emphasized how priceless in-person learning experiences really are.
Thanks to financial support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, I have redirected my efforts while the campus is quiet. Christina Young returned to work remotely as a summer intern. Her insight as a recent graduate from the University of Rhode Island’s history program has been invaluable. Together, we have developed a plan for new online exhibits, collections, videos, and lesson plans to support the museum’s guiding principles to:
ignite curiosity by exploring the lives of people and the tools they used on the farm, at sea, in the mills and the villages of South County
offer accessible educational experiences and engaging exhibits and programs
encourage historical thinking that helps build connections between the past and life today
The first collection on the blacksmith trade will be available on our website starting the third week of September. We hope you will come to check it out because curious learners of all ages are sure to take away something new. Explore the life of Solomon Fayerweather, a third-generation blacksmith from the village of Kingston. Experience modern-day blacksmith Jim Crothers practice the craft in a taped demonstration. Come back often for new subjects! In November, new material on “Communication in History” will be available to inspire middle and high school students to search for a topic to participate in the 2021 National History Day competition this spring.
A new Education Committee has formed to guide the museum’s efforts to support history education for students in kindergarten to college. Committee members include Daryl Anderson, SCM Board President; Diane Nobles, Secretary, SCM board and Narragansett School Board Committee member; Erica Luke, Director, South County History Center; Sharon Webster, RILINK Professional Development/Technology Support Specialist, and retired Narragansett High School teacher; Christina Young, and myself.
We may be a small, local history museum by our role and responsibility in the community is monumental. The South County Museum links a student’s backyard to the world because all history starts locally.
Everyone at work is talking about it….the South County Museum is open Friday & Saturdays 10-4 with free admission to the open-air exhibits! #rhodeislandred #rhodeislandhistory #southcountymuseum #southcounty #playtouristfortheday #breakfromcovid
In recent years, a small army of skilled volunteers has been working on a variety of jobs at the museum, including building exhibits and presenting events.
With our doors currently closed, that army has been dispersed but it is still very active. The volunteers have been working at home to keep the museum in operation. For instance:
Susan Valenstein, Board member, and Collections Committee Chair, and Charles McCarthy have been working on a major exhibit to explore the history of commercial fishing in Point Judith. Susan Valenstein is also working actively on grant writing.
Printers Ed Shunney and Dave Maseglia continue to maintain the extensive Print Shop collection.
The Canonchet Gazette newsletter designer and photographer Jim Transue continues to publish the quarterly publication. Linda Pouliot is spearheading the newsletter and membership mailings.
Well-known photojournalist and documentary-maker Mark Starr published the museum’s first video on the blacksmithing trade. Now school students learning at home and unable to visit in person for their scheduled field trips due to COVID can still “join us” online.
Raymond Merz completed maintenance and painting projects at the Visitor’s Center.
Laurie Holland Morris, Janet Malenfant, and Chris Westcott continue to offer countless hours each month maintaining active community groups through Facebook. Consider joining one of the museum’s private groups for more information on Narragansett/South Kingstown memories and Point Judith commercial fishing.
Our education advisor Sharon Webster, a retired Narragansett K-12 school teacher, is with RILINK, providing books for Rhode island’s public schools.
The campus is not entirely empty. Executive Director (and resident blacksmith) Jim Crothers and Assistant Director Heather Kisilywicz are putting in more or less regular office hours, and irreplaceable resident caretaker Jeff Swanson cares for the Living Farm animals and keeps the museum grounds always looking good.
Unfortunately, we counted our chickens before they hatched. 500 Rhode Island Red eggs were recently set in the museum’s incubators in hopeful anticipation of our most popular event of the year, the 4th of July chick hatch. Sadly, the museum remains closed to the public and the chick hatch has been canceled.
Between 400 – 600 visitors join us each year to welcome the newborn Rhode Island Reds. The continued cancelations of important events while daily operating expenses continue, like feeding the chickens, sheep, and goats, seriously jeopardize our non-profit organization.
If you are a faithful flock follower, consider making a donation online using the “Support” section or by phone. Donations of $20.00 or more will receive a free stuffed animal baby chick to cuddle at home! With your support, we are confident that the museum can weather this storm because birds of a feather flock together. Thank you!
South County is setting the pace as first in the nation with the offshore wind farms, but also in the clear value, they place in the commercial fishing community. Grover Fugate, Executive Director of Rhode Island Coastal Management council, making sure those most familiar with the fisheries have a voice in future projects in a recent webinar designed to share best practices with other areas that may follow in their footsteps with similar initiatives.
Fugate explained how Rhode Island made the Fisheries Advisory Board “part of the regulatory scheme, so Rhode Island fishermen have a much stronger say than fishermen might in other states where a similar board might simply have an advisory role.” (Rhode Island Sea Grant 2020)
He will speak on South County related stories from his newly-released book, Untold Stories from World War II Rhode Island (History Press, 2019):
Did you know President George H.W. Bush trained in Charlestown to be a pilot?
What was it like to watch army patrols on Quonochontaug Beach?
Was there really an attack by a German submarine right here in Point Judith? (YES!!)
Christian McBurney, an attorney in Washington, D.C., has authored or co-authored seven Rhode Island history books and is the founder and publisher of the leading Rhode Island history blog, smallstatebighistory.com. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area, after being raised in Kingston, R.I., attending South Kingstown High School, and obtaining his undergraduate degree from Brown University.