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Museum Of Work And Culture

Rhode Island Historical Society

Osage & Cherokee artist Ross Chaney talks about his work at MIAC

HistoryFounded in 1822, the RIHS is the fourth oldest state historical society in the United States. It is a private organization, founded and supported by its membership.

About RIHS

The Rhode Island Historical Society is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing Rhode Islands history. Its offices are located at Aldrich House, 110 Benevolent Street, Providence Rhode Island, 02906. Information about its collections and historic buildings, and about its programs and events, may be found on this website.

The RIHS holds the largest and most important historical collections relating to Rhode Island. These collections include some 25,000 objects, 5,000 manuscripts, 100,000 books and printed items, 400,000 photographs and maps, and 9 million feet of motion-picture film. The RIHS owns and maintains the John Brown House Museum , a National Historic Landmark built in 1788 the Aldrich House , also a National Historic Landmark, built in 1822 and the Library . The organization also maintains the Museum of Work and Culture , a regional history museum devoted to the history of northern Rhode Island.

As we preserve the past, our members ensure our future through membership fees, special gifts, and donations to the collections. Rhode Island’s history is the story of all the people who have lived here. We need your help to tell those stories.

The Museum Of Work And Culture

Located in Woonsocket’s historic , The Museum of Work and Culture tells the story of French Canadian immigrants who left Quebec to come to work in the mills and factories of Woonsocket.

Visitors begin their tour at a rural Quebec farm house and journey through the work day world of Woonsocket’s residents from the early twentieth century to the present. On the shop floor of a textile mill, from the front porch of a three family tenement, in church, in school, in the union hall, visitors are immersed in a narrative of the working class in America.

Operated by the Rhode Island Historical Society, the museum includes six walk through displays, two movies, many interactive audio presentations and hundreds of photographs. A predominate theme of the museum is the transformation immigrants undergo in “becoming American”. Major exhibits include:

In keeping with the trend toward converting old industrial buildings to new uses, the museum itself is housed in a former textile mill. Originally the Barnai Worsted Company and later the Lincoln Textile Company, renovations began in 1996 and the museum opened in October, 1997. In the Museum Store, you will find unique gifts, books, crafts and clothing. You will also find brochures, guidebooks and other information for visitors to the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. You can also visit the Lt. Georges Dubois Veterans Museum.

The Museum of Work and Culture is located at:

The Museum of Work and CultureMarket Square

What Are You Most Excited About

The Museum has always identified itself as a “community museum.” It was created by a group of citizens and officials who were passionate about their city and its people, and who believed that their stories were worthy of celebration and remembrance.

I am excited that this work is truly reflective of that legacy. It ensures that our region’s community — past, present, and future — have a space that honors and shares their stories.

Compiled by Sara Carr, Assistant Director, Museum of Work and Culture

Culturehive will share more of the Museum of Work and Culture’s journey as they move forward as part of OF/BY/FOR ALL.

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Museum Of Work And Culture

The Museum of Work and Culture is a museum in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, that features exhibits focusing on the city’s textile manufacturing heritage. The museum is operated by the Rhode Island Historical Society and located at 42 South Main Street in Market Square in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.

What Challenges Do You Anticipate Experiencing During This Process As An Individual/team And/or More Broadly As An Organisation

Museum of Work &  Culture

Right now, we are prepared to learn that the ways we hope to serve and reflect this community may not be what they actually need or want. I believe the more open we are to discovering our preconceptions may be misplaced, the fewer challenges we will face.

We are lucky that as a team we are all truly committed to this process and on the same page of the larger goals we want to achieve. We are working to be flexible on what the path may be to get there.

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What Led You To Sign Up To Of/by/for All

OBFA launched shortly after the Museum had concluded its 20th anniversary celebrations. Having spent more than a year reflecting on two decades of work preserving the story of our community’s past, it was the right time to actively think about the Museum’s future.

While Woonsocket has always been marked by diversity, the immigrant groups who call our city home have changed. We wanted to challenge ourselves to think about the work we were doing to reflect and engage our present community and ensure that our programming and interpretation remain relevant to those we serve.

What You’ll See & Experience Here

  • Take a seat in the parlor of a 1930s Triple Decker house and listen to a radio program of the day.
  • Explore the transformation of this textile city over 200 years on an interactive touch table.
  • Discover the story of Rhode Islands Merci Boxcar.
  • Shop a variety of local products, including blankets produced by Woonsockets last operating textile mill.

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What Transformations Do You Anticipate Taking Place Within Your Museum

We see this as the first step in a much larger process. Right now we are working with organizations who work directly with this community to host round tables and identify programming opportunities for 2020.

There are exciting possibilities for gallery exhibits, public forums, new educational materials, and cultural celebrations that are in the works. In the long term, we hope to offer citizenship classes, create a team of museum docents who can contextualize the historical story of immigration with their own personal, contemporary experiences, and more.

I believe the most necessary transformation has occurred, which is a shared understanding amongst our museum team to infuse this type of thinking whenever we are considering new opportunities and challenges.

Museum Of Work And Culture Revamping Digital Offerings This Fall

SA Arts and Culture | Hip-Hop gets its own museum
  • LAUREN CLEM, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

WOONSOCKET With another season of virtual visits before them, the Museum of Work and Culture is expanding the ways participants can interact with the museums exhibits and events.

In the spring, the museum switched to an all-virtual format as organizations shut down to stem the spread of COVID-19. Since then, theyve reopened to some in-person visits, but museum Director Anne Conway said they anticipate continuing many of their online initiatives through the fall.

We very quickly turned all our programming into digital formats, she said. We reached out to more students and visitors in general than we have been able to do in the past physically in the museum, which is really the silver lining of this crazy time were going through.

Between April and June, more than 750 adults participated in virtual tours or programs hosted by the museum. More than 4,000 students participated in the museums Google Classroom program, while many more individuals attended virtual events including the Salute to Summer and Valley Talks on local history. Some of these participants came from areas far outside the museums usual geographic range, including Florida and the United Kingdom.

I think its much more interesting to have a real person at the end speaking that can stop, that can answer questions along the way. We dont want to be sending just a pre-recorded tour, said Conway.

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Heritage Recreation And Culture Services

  • Other cultural features of the neighbourhood
Listed Heritage Property

Listed Heritage Properties have cultural value but aren’t designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. These properties are included on Richmond Hill’s Heritage Register. The Register is an official record of listed and designated cultural heritage properties. Owners of these properties must let us know when they plan to demolish or remove a building or structure at least 60 days before applying for a demolition permit.

Heritage Clearance Letters

Heritage staff can provide a Heritage Clearance Letter which will provide owners, realtors and lawyers with concise information regarding the heritage status of a specific property.

About Museum Of Work And Culture

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, immigrants flocked to Rhode Island in search of work and prosperity within the state’s mill towns. Their laborsboth on and off the factory floorhelped define the culture of the Blackstone Valley. Today, the Museum of Work and Culture preserves their stories for future generations.

  • Size: nine walk-through exhibits peppered with media presentations and displays of historic photographs
  • Eye Catcher: a 19th-century farmhouse that depicts the unsustainable nature of life in rural Québec
  • Permanent Exhibits: the School Room, Triple Decker, Going to Work, ITU Hall, and the Mill Floor, which shows how textile workers labored in factories during the early 20th century
  • Visiting Exhibit: the locally shot Half Pint, a film that educates children about D-Day
  • Don’t Miss: the Treasury of Life, a giant bank vault where safe deposit boxes hold photographs and family heirlooms accessible only by authorized family members

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Development Of Heritage Properties

Heritage building specialists

Richmond Hill has a list of Heritage Building Specialists in Ontario. The list helps you find qualified people to work on a heritage property or prepare a Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment. They have experience and products specializing in heritage structures.

Heritage permits

Heritage property owners may need a Heritage Permit in order to complete any work on their property. A permit is needed when changes affect the “Reasons for Designation” listed in the designating by-law. Permit applications are submitted to the Heritage Planner and are approved by Council before any work can start.

Some permits require a fee. Minor changes cost $406 and major changes cost $3,480. Contact the Heritage and Urban Design Planner to find out where your plan fits and how much a permit will cost. Once confirmed, you can submit your Heritage Permit online.

Cultural Heritage Assessments

Cultural Heritage Assessment defines a property’s value using the Cultural Heritage Assessment Terms of Reference. These terms of reference for a CHA explain:

  • The CHA’s purpose
  • Who can prepare a CHA
  • What information is included
  • What resources can help with preparing a CHA

Contact the Heritage and Urban Design Planner at 905-771-5529 for help with getting a CHA.

Cultural Heritage Impact Assessments

Tell Us About Your Museum: Where Are You Based What Do You Do

Museum of Work and Culture (Woonsocket)

The Museum of Work & Culture is located in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and is a division of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Our museum tells the story of the men, women, and children who came in search of a better life in New England’s mill villages in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Our immersive exhibits allow visitors to recreate the immigrant journey from farm to factory, while exploring the spaces where they lived, worked, learned, and worshiped.

Our story is told through the lens of the French-Canadian experience, as Woonsocket was once the most French city in the United States with 70% of residents in 1920 identifying as Franco.

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The Museum Of Work And Culture In Woonsocket Will Take You Back To An Era Long Past

Museum days are such a fantastic way to spend a little time relaxing inside while also getting some good education There are lots of great museums in Rhode Island to pick and choose between. With natural history, living museums, and art galleries, you could spend a lot of your time in the Ocean State just strolling through spaces and learning. One museum we found particularly fascinating is the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket.

What To Expect

Fitting with its theme of industry, the museum is housed in a former water-powered textile mill along the Blackstone River. In fact, textile machinery is displayed on the Mill Floor section of the ground floor. Other related exhibits on that floor include replicas of a Quebec farmhouse, a French Catholic church, and a credit union. Every exhibit contains video or audio that explains different aspects of immigrant life, focusing on the struggle to preserve their culture, learn a new line of work, and deal with homesickness. Hands-on activities located on the Mill Floor allow visitors to experience the job of a textile worker, albeit in a much safer environment. Also on this floor is a fully restored Merci Boxcar, a thank you gift from France to the citizens of Rhode Island, as the country had received donated food and supplies from the United States after both of the World Wars.

This floor also contains digital and physical archives. A touch table displays a map of Woonsocket, which allows visitors to tap and zoom in on points of interest to further learn their history. Beside the table is a kiosk containing video interviews of former mill workers and other employees from the area. Additionally, bookshelves beside the parochial school classroom contain the records of parochial schools throughout the state of Rhode Island. Many visitors are surprised to discover that they are part of the museum archives through their high school yearbook!

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Did You Know

  • Our exhibits are presented in both French and English.
  • Many Woonsocket mill baseball teams produced great players, including Hall of Famer Napolean LaJoie.
  • 1920, 70% of Woonsockets population was of French and French Canadian descent.
  • The former Alice Mill on Fairmount Street helped produce the inflatable tanks used by the ghost army during World War II.

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