Experience all there is to see at the South County Museum. Click a title below to learn more about the exhibit spaces:
Metz Exhibit Hall
The Metz Exhibit Hall, or the Metz, was built in 1985 to house South County Museum’s collections.
With a design that took inspiration from the barns and civic buildings of the local region, the Metz serves as our main indoor exhibit space. The building boasts soaring ceilings and houses temporary and permanent exhibits on its main floor. Our Victorian Kitchen, General Store, Schmid Maritime Gallery, and Native American exhibits are permanent in the sense that while we do update them as time and resources allow, we all know it is not easy to move around a full-size iron kitchen stove or a store counter. In addition, the Metz hosts temporary exhibits - with this year’s featured exhibit covering the history of the post-WW2 commercial fishing industry of Point Judith. The lower level of the Metz houses the museum’s main collection storage areas and a transportation exhibit which includes old bicycles and our 1921 Model T Livery Hack.
The Museum Press is one of the most completely equipped letterpress shops in the Northeast, with presses manufactured over a hundred-year period from 1835 to 1953.
Indeed, it has become a museum within the museum. The shop was organized in the 1980s by the late William Brady Washburn. Washburn collected so many letterpresses and other equipment that the museum trustees decided that the shop should have its own building. The present Museum Press curator, Ed Shunney, with help from volunteers, is continuing the Washburn tradition. Important pieces acquired by Shunney include an Adams “Acorn” press on loan from the University of Rhode Island as well as a Heidelberg press. Shunney also has made sure that each piece of equipment –- no matter how venerable — is in perfect working order.
In addition to the Acorn and Heidelberg, the shop boasts a Linotype, a Ludlow with several drawers of type, a Vandercook proof press, several hand presses, a very large paper cutter and a variety of other tools of the trade. The shop remains a productive one, fulfilling the museum’s need for flyers, posters, business cards and more. The special look of products produced on letterpress machines makes it a great option for couples looking to print their own wedding invitations!
A fully functioning working forge on the grounds of the museum.
South County Museum’s Blacksmith Forge is an exhibit as well as a fully functioning working forge that includes an extensive collection of blacksmithing tools including bellows that came from the famous Fayerweather Blacksmith Shop in Kingston, Rhode Island. Joshua Kelly, the resident blacksmith, along with a team of several local blacksmiths, work on a regular basis throughout the season to provide lessons and live demonstrations.
On the 4th Saturday of each month, individuals interested in blacksmithing feel the heat of the fire with a hammer in hand as they hone their blacksmithing skills as an actual blacksmith. There are no age restrictions, however those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent. This is an informal gathering with no “formal” teaching. At least one lesson or prior experience - as well as active museum membership - is required in order to participate.
We offer a private lesson designed to be an introduction to those curious about the art of blacksmithing. No age restrictions. These lessons are for up to three individuals, run for two hours, and are scheduled at a mutually beneficial time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The cost is $150 for non-members and $100 for members.
Blacksmiths are working in the forge during regular museum hours and at special events such as our Opening Day, Civil War Reenactment, and Autumn Festival.
During the summer of 2017, one of our new volunteers, URI Anthropology student Rich Buckley III, became enamored with the Carpentry Shop and our desire to revamp the exhibit building.
Central to this reimagining was making the shop more accessible and engaging for all ages. The first task was to become acquainted with the building and discover why the floor, in the front right corner in particular, was tilting. Unfortunately, we discovered that the entire floor system of the building was completely rotten. This has since required us to remove everything from the building and find space to store the artifacts temporarily.
This was no easy task, but Rich and Rob Gitry, another new volunteer, pulled it off. On November 3, 2017, volunteers Rich, Mark Gagnon, and Erran Sousa dismantled the entire carpentry barn floor, and local builder Dave Baud, a friend of the museum, came to give us advice on fixing the building. Have we mentioned how much we love our volunteers!
With the new floor in place, we are working to reopen the carpentry barn both as a new, permanent exhibit as well as a functioning maker’s space! Look to sign up for carpentry lessons this spring as well as tour one of our newest exhibits, “From Logs to Lumber," detailing the historic importance of the carpenter’s trade in southern Rhode Island.
Our third “craft barn” is set to become the fourth of our makers' spaces, enabling learners of all ages to connect with an industry that once spun the wheels of commerce across Rhode Island - textiles!
From sewing to weaving, the textile shop will offer classes as well as a small permanent exhibit dedicated to this once-thriving local industry. Look forward to this exhibit in 2023!
Living History Farm
The agricultural heritage of our region is very much alive at the South County Museum.
The Living History Farm is a visitor favorite and features two heritage flocks of the official state bird, the Rhode Island Red, goats, sheep, and turkeys. For several years, under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Durfee, Emeritus Professor of Poultry Science at URI, we have been raising Rhode Island Reds to recreate the purebred Red, reversing many decades of cross-breeding. Over the past couple of years, Don Nelson has been assisting us with our chicken program. Don provides us with more than advice, he is all hands on and often comes away covered in, well, dirt. We are looking forward to our new batch of baby chicks, which we celebrate each year at the annual 4th of July Chick Hatch where you can get a chance to learn about raising your own Reds and cuddle with one of the new babies.
Besides our beautiful and sometimes noisy Reds, we also have Bella and Lily, our two goats. Bella is brown with black markings and her sister Lily is brown with whiter markings. They are as precocious as you can imagine and have been giving the Farm’s care giver, Jeff Swanson, quite a bit of extra work since they arrived.
The Museum contains a large collection of farm tools housed in the Metz Exhibit Building, and an impressive and expanding － thanks to George Mumford of North Kingstown － collection of animal-powered farm machinery that can be found throughout the grounds.
The ivy-covered Stables were built in 1905 for Gov. William Sprague’s Canonchet Mansion.
The structure was later used as a riding school but, save for the ground-floor stonework, burned down in 1965. It now serves as a unique setting for weddings and other events.
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Photographs generously provided by
Visit the Robinson Cemetery on the grounds of the South County Museum.
The final resting place of several members of the prominent Robinson family, we ask that all visitors keep in mind the sacred nature of this part of our campus. Please do enjoy a respectful look at this peaceful and historic burial ground.
This poem is from a hymn by Samuel Francis Smith (1808-1895),
The Carriage Barn houses an array of nearly two dozen horse-drawn carriages and sleighs.
The collection includes an 1847 fire engine; a hand-pumper used inside a textile mill to cope with the frequent fires in such facilities; an 1838 one-horse hearse; an elegant Brougham Rockaway; a doctor’s buggy, and postal and milk delivery wagons - both of which were manufactured just down the road in Wakefield. The transportation collection at the museum also includes four classic automobiles: A 1921 Model T Depot Hack (see video), a Model A with sideboards and rumble seat, a 1950 Plymouth Club Coupe and a 1931 Willys Overland, all housed in the lower East Wing of the Metz building. This wing also houses antique bicycles.
South County Museum is a non-profit, membership-based organization supported through individual contributions from wonderful people, like you!
Museum & Grounds Photos provided by Josh Edenbaum Photography