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.
The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.