Visiting the Museum of Work and Culture

We have been studying the industrial revolution and I found a wonderful museum that helped bring this topic to life!

I had been wanting to check out the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket Rhode Island with the boys for quite some time but wasn't really sure it was anything they would be interested in.  However, this museum is all about the families who came to Rhode Island hoping for a better life in the mill towns.  I could not have picked a more perfect time to visit and I am so glad I had kept putting off our visit.

The museum is two stories and contains about 10 or 12 rooms dedicated to what life was like in this region.

We went on a weekday afternoon and had the museum to ourselves.  Once the workers discovered that we were homeschoolers and that we were studying the industrial revolution they pulled out extra photographs, suggested other museums to visit, and went into a lot of detail about what we'd be seeing and experiencing.  It was wonderful!

We learned that the majority of mill workers in this region migrated down from Quebec, Canada and that many came because they would earn more wages working one month in the mill than they could working for a year on the farm. 

Our tour started with a replica of a Canadian farm house and a voice recording of two girls discussing the possibility of moving south to mill towns.

From the house we moved onto the local church where we watched a movie about life in Woonsocket covering the whole history of the area to present day including what it sounded and felt like to work in the mills, the development of labor unions, the life and lifestyle of the Canadian French and how both World Wars effected these mills.

We then moved onto a room that replicated the mill floor.  The boys really enjoyed this room.  They had a few games set up.  One encouraged visitors to try and sort the spinning rods by color using only one hand in the fastest time possible.  The older boys eagerly accepted the challenge and had me time them.  There were time penalties for improper sorting or using multiple hands.

All the rods start in this basket 

and they're sorted into these bins

The second game had players time how long it took them to load the spindles onto the machine; first trying to load up the first row and then asked players to meet that time while loading BOTH rows.  It was really hard to load two rows in the time it took to load one and the sign reminded them that they would have been doing that over and over and over again all day for a 12 hour or so day!

We also got to see some of the machinery up close and imagine what the jobs would have been like.  They also had a few small looms set up where kids could weave pot holders and a table with some coloring pages about mill life. 

Pulling wool into yarn 

weaving cloth 
 We headed upstairs and learned more about mill life outside the mill.

We learned that most mill families lived in triple decker houses; houses that had three stories, three porches, and multiple families living inside.  We could go in and check out the living room and they had quite a few voice recordings of people who had memories of living in the houses and working in the mills.

One recording the woman remembered a special treat her mother would occasionally allow them to make; running white bread under water to moisten it and then dipping it in sugar.  She reminded us that they didn't know what candy or chocolate tasted like so they thought this was wonderful.  I think we'll give it a try ourselves one day.

There was a room with an interactive map of the area and we could see how it developed from 1800's to present day; click on pictures of factories to learn more about that area and on houses to learn more about life in each time period.

We learned about more than just the textile mills too; Woonstocket had rubber mills for making shoes and tired, mills for making things like ornaments and baseballs too.

We got to see what a typical classroom would like in a French Catholic school.  We talked with one of the workers for a long time in this room and again learned how schools progressed over time.   Before laws were passed during the World Wars the typical class day was taught half in French and half in English. We saw an actual religion book written in French that they used.

We read about the various mill owners too.

There was a room dedicated to the unions and a movie about them.  How they developed, some of their walk outs and a few bloody battles that resulted from them. 

The final room showcased an actual boxcar that came from France to Rhode Island filled with gifts to thank them for their help during the war.  Many of the gifts were on display.

Linking Up With:

JENerally Informed

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Party in Your PJ's



  1. What a wonderful trip. We may be heading north for a visit this spring if the in laws beach house isn't available. I may put this one on the list.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. I had noticed the museum years ago but it looked small and didn't sound like much on it's website but I was so pleasantly surprised when we got there.

  2. Looks like a really interesting place to visit!

    1. It really was! I just love when a field trip coincides so nicely with what we're learning about.

  3. There are so many choices of museums wow. This one looks reallly interesting. #ExplorerKids

    1. It was really neat and I just loved learning so much about the local history.

  4. I hadn't heard about this place before but I'm putting it on my list for this summer. My daughter might be a bit young but really surprised me with how interested she was a few weeks ago when we went to Sturbridge Village #happynow

    1. She'd probably enjoy it. They had enough hands on stuff and video clips to watch that it really did keep my boys engaged.

  5. It must have been weird for them to see how the classroom works in the old days. I don't think homeschooling was not very established at that time. How interesting.

    Thank you very much for linking up with us on #ExplorerKids

    1. It was really neat to see and hear about; the woman who worked on that floor actually attended one of the local Catholic schools and told us more about what it was like to be a classroom with a priest or nun teaching.

  6. What a wonderful and educational trip for your boys and probably for you also! I think it is so good for our children to learn history and be appreciative of it. Thank you for sharing with us on Party in Your PJ's!

    1. It was quite educational for me as well. I think I have learned almost as much as my boys through this homeschooling journey! It's so neat to get to see and learn about all these aspects of history that were really only glossed over in our textbooks at school.

  7. What a super cool trip. I would love to go there.

    1. It was so neat! I was kind of surprised since it was so small and I hadn't heard one single person talking about it.


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