Tucked away in the woods in rural Exeter, the Tomaquag Museum, Rhode Island’s only museum of Indigenous People, is running out of room. So now in its 60th year, the Museum is looking to move, not only to a larger space but to one more centrally located.
As its collections and programs have grown, along with the number of visitors, the Museum recognized several years ago that it needed to grow. What was envisioned as an $8 to $10 million multi-story building, has been scaled down initially to a $2 million one-story project.
That’s the first phase, said Loren Spears, long-time Tomaquag Museum executive director. She said the Museum staff and board are completing a strategic plan that it hopes will culminate in a fundraising effort that leads to completion of the first phase – a one-story museum building, and another education building – in three to five years.
Spears also said she hopes is to move the museum to a location more central in South County, near public transportation, but close enough to nature: “It’s important to remain close to the land,” Spears said.
She said the museum attracts about 10,000 visitors a year, besides reaching out to educational institutions, organizations, and corporations with a variety of programs, from understanding the place indigenous people have in the history of the area to diversification training.
The museum is currently open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Private and group tours are available for the rest of the week by appointment.
According to The Museum’s website, it was founded in 1958 by Mary E. Glasko (Princess Red Wing) and anthropologist Eva Butler, initially opening in Eva’s home in the Tomaquag Valley in Ashaway. After Eva’s death in 1969, the Museum relocated to Exeter, adjacent to the Dovecrest Restaurant.
Spears characterizes the Museum as a place where people “learn about the first people…we’re the premier place people come for this kind of knowledge.”
An overview of the Tomaquag Museum, its mission, activities, and goals.