News Flash

Town News and Updates

Posted on: June 11, 2021

Middletown Historical Society -- Bringing The Past To Life

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The Middletown Historical Society is proud to connect today's Middletown to decades and centuries before. Come find out about Middletown's beginnings, where the community has been and how it got there.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT: Matt Sheley at (401) 712-2221 or msheley@middletownri.com

 

MIDDLETOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY – 

BRINGING THE PAST TO LIFE

 

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (JUNE 11, 2021)  It may be a tried-and-true saying, but Mary Dennis genuinely believes it.

 

“If we don’t learn from history, you’re bound to repeat it.”

 

As President of the Middletown Historical Society, Dennis and her peers should know. While the COVID-19 pandemic begins to break, the nonprofit headquartered in the old Paradise Schoolhouse is looking to breathe new life into the organization.

 

Many of the exhibits in the Prospect Avenue building have been updated to better reflect the dynamic, rich history of Aquidneck Island’s middle town. A big push is underway at the historical society to make the offerings more “hands on” and engaging, similar to an old-time tools of Middletown exhibit currently on display.

 

The historical society building is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. – noon. Between June 27 through early October, the facility is also open Sundays from 2-4 p.m. There is no entry fee to visit the historical society, but donations are appreciated. To make a contribution, visit https://www.middletownhistoricalsociety.org/contact online.

 

“When you mention Middletown to people, they say we were nothing but a bunch of farmers,” Dennis said, shaking her head. 

 

“That couldn’t be further from the truth of this place. It was a dynamic place and the decisions and choices they made back then still influence us today. I’m just amazed at all they were able to accomplish and how they found the time to do it.”

 

Far too often in today’s world, youngsters dread history and social studies classes. Seen as nothing more than set of useless facts and dates with little connection to their day-to-day lives, the courses that should be the most dynamic and engaging are often the ones students look to drop.

 

Aware of those trends, Dennis said the historical society tries to connect Middletown to its residents – young and old – directly.

 

Walk up the stairs of the yellow building that’s on the National Register of Historic Places and you’ll be greeted by a rich, warm atmosphere filled with photos and exhibits.

 

These range from “The Beginning,” an exhibit that shows the origins of the community we know today as Middletown. There are also showcases of the Navy in Middletown, farming, the islands of Narragansett Bay, tools and others.

 

Dennis and Anna Hallett, a member of the society’s board who assists with public relations, said the goal is to tell the story of Middletown in a way that’s engaging, interesting and fun.

 

The same is true for the Witherbee School, another property operated by the historical society at the corner of Green End Avenue and Valley Road. The historic one-room schoolhouse is open for immersive experiences for fourth graders, to give them a sense of what it was like to go to school in 1892.

 

“We call it the Golden Rule program and it’s so much fun to see students today experience a snapshot of life back then,” Dennis said. “Some of their comments are priceless.”

 

Hallett said one of her favorite aspects of volunteering with the historical society is helping history come alive with the exhibits and hands on activities.

 

“I like when we’re able to show people what things looked like and then they can handle pieces from the past,” Hallett said. “Our ‘Tools’ exhibit is a classic case of that. For me, that physical history really brings everything to life.”

 

“I’m very pleased with how everything turned out,” said Mary Redgate, the archivist for the historical society. “I think they really reflect what Middletown is all about and our rich history.”

 

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Middletown Historical Society Archivist Mary Redgate and President Mary Dennis hold a clamp in the Paradise Schoolhouse, which serves as the headquarters for the historical society. The facility on Prospect Avenue is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. – noon. From June 27 to early October, the building is also open Sundays from 2-4 p.m. There is no entry fee to visit the historical society, but donations are appreciated. To make a contribution, visit https://www.middletownhistoricalsociety.org/contact online.



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