Providence Children's Museum - History

In the mid 1970s, the Pawtucket JayCees and other community leaders began exploring the idea of opening Rhode Island's first (and still its only) children's museum in Pawtucket. They envisioned a lively learning center modeled on the established children's museums in Boston and Brooklyn. Local parents, educators and business people formed a committed group of volunteers and incorporated the Children's Museum as a non-profit organization. The Pawtucket Congregational Church agreed to lease the Pitcher-Goff House, a 5,000 square foot Victorian on Pawtucket's "Quality Hill," to the fledgling museum. Volunteers renovated the Pitcher-Goff House, raised funds, sewed curtains and costumes, built intriguing play spaces and, in June 1977, began welcoming excited children and curious adults. Ten years later, Rhode Island's Children's Museum was a professionally staffed organization serving 50,000 visitors a year. It was attracting national attention as well as enthusiastic local support and had become a leader in the rapidly growing children's museum movement.

By the 1990s, the Museum had outgrown its space and its leadership began planning for expansion and relocation. They entered into a purchase agreement for a 17,000 square foot former factory building in Providence's historic Jewelry District and launched a $3 million capital campaign. The building was renovated for its new function as a learning center for children while its historic character was preserved. Museum designers and educators created 8,000 square feet of new interactive exhibits. The capital campaign surpassed its goal, raising a total of $3.3 million. In October 1997, the renamed Providence Children's Museum opened its new quarters at 100 South Street. In 2010 the Museum completed the Play Works Campaign for Kids, successfully raising $1.5 million for capital projects, including three new learning environments and major capital improvements to its historic building.

With its move to the Jewelry District, the Museum tripled its physical space and audience numbers. Over two and a half million people have visited the Museum since its relocation in 1997. Its commitment to serving children has led to partnerships with Head Start, RI Department of Children, Youth and Families, and community centers and schools throughout the state. The Museum has become an integral part of Rhode Island life, a place where children are nurtured and celebrated.

For more information or to receive an Annual Report, contact Megan Fischer, Director of Communications & Marketing, at (401) 273-5437 ext. 126.