January 9, 2024

RI Delegation Announces Federal Grant for New Tomaquag Museum

National Endowment for the Humanities award will support construction of a new space for the Tomaquag Museum

Providence, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo today announced $444,282 in federal funding for the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum, Rhode Island’s only Native-led museum.  The grant, administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will support the construction of a new permanent home for Tomaquag Museum at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus.

“The Tomaquag Museum is the only museum in the state operated by Native people and one of the best small museums in the entire country,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, which oversees NEH funding.  Reed recently brought the head of NEH to Rhode Island to meet with Tomaquag Museum officials.  “They have an incredibly diverse collection of artifacts old and new and a tremendously talented, dedicated staff that highlights Southern New England Indigenous traditions, heritage, history and culture.  The Tomaquag Museum is a place where history comes alive and so it’s fitting that it continues to expand and grow and reach wider audiences.”

“The Tomaquag Museum plays an important role educating the public and honoring local Indigenous communities,” said Senator Whitehouse, who successfully nominated the Tomaquag Museum for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2016.  “I am very pleased that this funding will help support the relocation and expansion of the Tomaqaug Museum so more Rhode Islanders can learn about our state’s cultural heritage and the contributions of the Narragansett Tribe.” 

“It is vital to preserve the story of Rhode Island’s Indigenous communities and educate the public about the tribes that have stewarded this land for generations,” said Rep. Magaziner. “The Tomaquag Museum plays a crucial role in this mission, and I am thrilled that this federal funding will help expand the Museum and allow them to continue sharing this important history with more Rhode Islanders and visitors to the Ocean State.”

“The Tomaquag Museum is an incredible home for the history and culture of Rhode Island’s Native peoples. The museum plays a vital role in allowing the Native people of our state to tell their own story,” said Congressman Gabe Amo. “I am eager to see these federal funds get put to use so that the museum can relocate, expand, and continue to tell the important history of Southern New England’s Indigenous people in a way that is accessible for all Rhode Islanders.”

Tomaquag Museum, currently located in Exeter, engages up to 15,000 members of the public each year through onsite and offsite programming.  The award will support the relocation and construction of the Museum’s new and expanded site in Kingston, which will have to capacity to share Indigenous culture, arts, and history with more than 150,000 visitors annually.  

The new space will showcase the Museum’s unique collection of thousands of cultural belongings along with hundreds of thousands of archival materials focusing on the Indigenous peoples of Southern New England and highlighting the Narragansett Nation. 

“The team at Tomaquag Museum is thrilled to receive this award! We are thankful to our delegation for their support of the new museum and we look forward to sharing more details of the plans in the coming months,” said Lorén Spears, Executive Director of the Tomaquag Museum.

Whitehouse secured two federal earmarks totaling $1.2 million in FY2023 for the Tomaquag Museum, including an $800,000 award to support the Museum’s Indigenous Empowerment Center, which works to eradicate poverty in Rhode Island’s Indigenous Community.  Components of the Indigenous Empowerment Center will be incorporated into the Kingston facility in later phases of the project.  A separate $300,000 earmark will support the Museum’s archival preservation activities to support exhibit planning and access for the public.

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Chip Unruh (Reed), (202) 224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (202) 224-2921

James Kwon (Magaziner), (202) 951-0315

Matt Rauschenbach (Amo), (202) 805-0497

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