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Childhood Rediscovered

Monday, June 09, 2014

Rhode-Island-Toys 

Thousands of artifacts lie buried just out of students’ sight at Rhode Island College (RIC) in Providence. Researchers from the Rhode Island State Home and School Project have been piecing together the story of the previous, and less fortunate, young people who inhabited the grounds on which the campus stands. Between 1885 and 1979, more than 10,000 dependent and neglected children left their lasting imprint on the landscape as residents of the state’s first public orphanage, still partially visible on the campus’ eastern end. According to RIC anthropologist E. Pierre Morenon, “The Progressive Era women who lobbied for the creation of this place viewed it as a temporary home, or an alternative to the almshouses, poor farms, and asylums of the late 1800s.” The project has spent much of the past decade documenting, preserving, and honoring the childrens’ experiences. Toys were the most common artifacts uncovered, among them marbles, jacks, toy trucks, soldiers, and roller skates. The objects are a sign that, despite their unfortunate circumstances, this young population might still have been able to experience childhood.