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Rhode Island State Home and School Project, Education/Publications/Community Involvement Award, Rhode Island College

The State Home and School Project is unique in that it combines historic preservation with a public history component to tell a compelling story of the state and nation’s response to the need for early childhood education and welfare reform. The Rhode Island State Home was one of the first post-Civil War orphanages constructed for children whose fathers had been killed during the Civil War, and one of only eight orphanages of its type established in the United States. For the past three years, Rhode Island College faculty and students, college staff, the State Archivist, former residents of the home, along with DCYF staff have worked together to preserve the records and create a memorial to its children, and bring together residents and members of the State Home.

This endeavor has resulted in numerous presentations and publications including an oral history cd, educational programming for children, archeological studies, and a commitment to restore the last remaining wooden building of the original complex. This initiative serves as a powerful testament to Rhode Island’s leadership in the 19th and 20th centuries on key issues of social reform, child welfare, the role of public institutions, and as a model for other institutions in preserving and interpreting their historic properties. Providence and Rhode Island are fortunate to have this historic resource and even more fortunate that this group of individuals coalesced together to preserve this resource and give voice to the children who lived here.