Metz Exhibit Hall
The Metz Exhibit Hall, or the Metz as we refer to it, was built in 1987 to house South County Museum’s collections, and it is our main indoor exhibit space. The Metz’s design took inspiration from the barns and civic buildings of the local region. The building boasts soaring ceilings and houses temporary and permanent exhibits on its main floor. Our Victorian Kitchen, General Store, and Native American exhibits are permanent in the sense that while we do update them as time and resources allow, we all know it is not easy to move around a full-size iron kitchen stove or a store counter. In addition, there are several areas of the Metz where temporary exhibits are mounted. This year our newest temporary exhibits include a celebration of South County Museum’s 85th Birthday (1933-2018), Mapping South County, and Needlework at Home. The lower level of the Metz houses the museum’s main collection storage areas, and a transportation exhibit which includes old bicycles and our 1921 Model T Livery Hack.
The Victorian Kitchen:
The kitchen includes some things any 19th-century home might have had, such as frying pans and butter churns, and some things that only wealthier households could afford, such as fancy dinnerware, an indoor pump for the sink and a massive iron stove. The fence that long limited access to the kitchen was removed at the beginning of the 2016 season and the objects in the space were curated to make it child friendly. We encourage young and old to explore the exhibit through the sense of touch as well as sight. Supervision of children is suggested because some objects, such as cast iron frying pans, are very heavy.
This is an apple corer. It is made out of metal and was probably used in the early part of the 20th century, perhaps as early as the early 1920s. This one was found in the South County Museum archives by one of our volunteers.
The General Store:
In the old days, the General Store sold a wide variety of goods for all kinds of people. This one-stop retail store was a must for country folk, whose transportation was either by horse-and-buggy or on foot. Items a shopper might want to pick up included freshly ground coffee, thread of precisely the right color or even the mail. South County Museum’s General Store exhibit includes a large desk, a cash register and other objects from Kenyon’s Department Store, once a large part of South County commerce located just down the road on Main Street in Wakefield, Rhode Island. The Kenyon Store ledger on display contains many recognizable names, including Mrs. William Sprague.
The land that we now call Rhode Island was the home of indigenous peoples long before the arrival of Europeans. In the Native American exhibit area the material culture of native peoples is presented with a special focus on objects from sites from southern Rhode Island. A highlight of the exhibit is a collection of nearly 1,400 arrowheads acquired at a 2013 auction in upstate New York and donated to the museum by Bernie Gould, a member of the Museum’s board of directors. These arrowheads, along with stone knives, points, and scrapes, were from a pre-contact site located at the Salt Pond at the head of Point Judith Pond in Narragansett, RI, dating from about 1250 A.D. The exhibit also includes local Indian stone hand tools, including hammer, hoes and grinders, along with a ceremonial war bonnet.
Schmid Maritime Gallery
The Maritime Gallery is easy to locate because it has a mariner’s compass painted on the floor. A Captain’s wheel, fishing nets, and our own Louie the Lobster who weighed XXXIV pounds. This area of the Metz honors the rich seafaring history of Rhode Island in general but specifically our south coast. Every year, and sometimes throughout the year, this gallery hosts photographic exhibits and related items curated from the museum’s permanent collection to tell the mariner’s tales. This year the Schmid Maritime Gallery houses the Mapping South County exhibit. The maps in this exhibit celebrate what locals call South County, but is officially known as Washington County, Rhode Island. For each South County town, we have sought to highlight one of the many ways that South County communities marked themselves on the landscape: cemeteries, places of worship, schoolhouses, transportation, mills, quarries, foundries, agriculture, and lighthouses. We have also sought to celebrate the relationship to these themes of contemporary historic and cultural organizations, and encourage visitors to visit our sister organizations in South County to learn more about individual topics.
Upon arriving at SCM, you will quickly learn that everyone is welcome, and we believe in employing all your senses when you tour our museum, particularly the sense of touch. Children have a corner of the Metz especially for them where they can color images of chickens, explore objects of the past in the touch and feel section, read books, and play with real vintage toys.
These more ‘permanent’ exhibits are just few of the areas to explore in our main exhibit hall the Metz. We also have the Canonchet Corner, a section dedicated to local railroad and beach history, an agriculture exhibit, wedding & other historic dresses, a Colonial Kitchen, and more. There are too many to mention so please come visit!!