Since the 19th century, Rhode Island has been a state populated by immigrants. Woonsocket stands as one of the best examples in the United States of a predominantly French-speaking city. Its French-Canadian immigrants began to arrive in the Blackstone Valley in the years around the American Civil War. Beginning in the 1880s and continuing through the 1920s, men, women, and children from Quebec came to the Valley, leaving unsustainable family farms behind them, and flooded into the Valley looking for factory work in the region’s booming mill towns. But the French Canadians were not the only people coming here to seek work. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish and African-American migrants came, as well. As the 20th century progressed, more people from different parts of the world, such as Asia and Latin America, also made this their home.
The Museum of Work & Culture is a true community museum, managed by the Rhode Island Historical Society, supported by volunteers, the city of Woonsocket, and the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission. It exhibits the culture of the French-Canadian residents of the area, the broad story of the other ethnic communities of the Valley, and the role that work and organized labor played in the shaping of these Rhode Islanders’ lives. The museum features hands-on experiences for visitors of all ages, as well as films, photographic and Catholic school archives.
Attention Educators: The Museum of Work & Culture is proud to announce the award of a CVS Caremark Community Grant to the Museum's educational programming. It's earmarked to provide free admission to our Hands-On Education program for all-abilities inclusive classrooms in Rhode Island. The program is highly customizable and can include, a guided tour of the Museum's exhibits, a National Park Service Ranger-led outdoor tour, a living history presentation, and a hands-on activity. We encourage teachers with such classrooms to contact the us about bringing their classes to the Museum for free! Please contact the Museum for more information at 401-331-8575.