Providence Children's Museum - Coming to Rhode Island Exhibit

Take a time traveling adventure and meet people who came to Rhode Island from four different countries. Hear their stories and find out why they came, what they brought and how they changed the Ocean State.

We all have stories about our families and how they came to America. While each of us reflects our individual culture, we share a common bond. Almost everyone living in Rhode Island has family roots in another country. Each group has experienced being new and different and all have brought customs, objects and perspectives that continue to enrich American life. Coming to Rhode Island celebrates the cultural diversity of the Ocean State.

In the exhibit's four story galleries, visitors discover the stories of actual people who immigrated to Rhode Island. The galleries are set in their historical context from an English colonist's farm to a Latino bodega in the 1960s. Hands-on activities bring the stories to life. Children climb aboard a replica packet ship to learn about the voyage from the Cape Verde islands and "work" in a simulated 19th century textile mill to understand the life of a French Canadian mill worker in northern Rhode Island.

The exhibit culminates in the Story Center where families find their ancestral lands on a huge map and tell their immigration stories using magnetic strips of words. Children choose from an assortment of books and activity kits, playing games of chance and skill from around the world. In addition, a video introduces the descendants of the historical immigrants, all of whom are children living in Rhode Island now. The descendant children are the hosts of a history hunt, challenging visitors to look for clues as to why their forebears came to America, what they brought, how they changed and what they left behind.

Coming to Rhode Island is recommended for children ages 7 and up - and their adult friends - for maximum understanding. Younger children also enjoy pretending in the exhibit's historical environments.

Some things to do in Coming to Rhode Island


  • Take care of Elizabeth Mott's cow.
  • Pretend to cook and eat dinner in Louis Goulet's house.
  • Steer Antonio Coelho's big ship. Go down below and find a place to sleep.
  • Go grocery shopping in Doña Fefa's Market.
  • Look at a book about someplace far away.

Ages 5 to 7:

  • Pretend to make a stew in Elizabeth Mott's house. Figure out how Elizabeth's family cooked and what kinds of food they ate.
  • Use the washtubs and scrub boards to do Louis Goulet's family laundry.
  • Load Antonio Coelho's ship with crates for the journey to Cape Verde. What will you need to take with you?
  • Pretend to work in Doña Fefa's Market. Which food looks unusual to you? What kinds of food do you recognize?
  • Pick up the phone in Doña Fefa's Market and listen to the conversation. Do you understand what they are saying? What language are they speaking?
  • Ask your parents or grandparents where your family came from. Find their countries on the big map.

Ages 8 and up:

  • Some things the Mott family used came from England, some things the colonists made or grew themselves, and for others, they traded with the native people. Figure out where the different things in Elizabeth's house came from.
  • Read Louis Goulet's letters. What was it like to work in the mill?
  • Go below deck in Antonio Coelho's ship and find the chicken. Why did the sailors bring live chickens with them? What else did the sailors and passengers take with them? Check the ship's hold to be sure they have all their supplies.
  • Who was President of the United States in 1961? Can you find his picture in Doña Fefa's market? Find out why Doña Fefa admired him so much.
  • Try some history hunts. Can you find all of the objects that don't belong?
  • Ask your parents or grandparents why your family came to America. Use the magnetic words to tell their story.

Other Exhibits:

Play Power | Water Ways | The Children's Garden | The Climber | Underland
Strings Attached | Littlewoods | ThinkSpace | Iway