Our Museum Project
We Are All Curators
We are using our building and our site as a tool to learn about and to present information about a wide range of subjects including immigration, technology, Native Americans, our neghborhood's history, transportation, health care, textiles, child labor, unionism, education, recreation, and ice harvesting. All who walk through our doors are learners and contributors. We learn by asking and doing. We are all curators of our museum-our staff, our students and our visitors. We all have stories to tell and questions to grow. Please help us!
How We Began
The Museum Project began in 1999 when administration and staff at the Charles fortes Magnet Academy decided to work with students to create a museum, using its building and neghborhood's histories as springboards to curiosity, research and presentation. The building, formerly a factory built in 1866, produced at various times cotton sheeting, braided goods and electronic products. The West Elmwood neighborhood was and is home for immigrants and working people including those those from German, Irish, Portuguese, Cape Verdean, African American, Dominican, Guatemalan, Colombian, Puerto Rican, Cambodian, and H'mong backgrounds. Additionally, there was a 17th Century Narragansett Indian settlement on a pond in the neighborhood and some Narragansetts still call the area home.
Using the building and the neighborhood directly or tangentially as starting points, students and teachers formulate questions that they pursue throughout the year. These questions generate hypotheses tested throughout the year in a variety of ways including oral histories, interviews with scholars, first and second person texts, physical objects and the Internet. Once the research is completed students, teachers and artists create an exhibit for the museum.
Museum Project Philosophy
The underlying philosophy of the Museum Project is called Site Specific Education. Created by Project Director, Marc Levitt, this philosophy looks to a school's physical, sociological and/or psychological environment as a place from where question-asking, research, literacy and math standards can be taught. Because we find our questions at least initially in the everyday environment of our building and neighborhood, students and their neighbors become experts, their experiences valued, and the daily environment becomes a site for continuously generating questions.
Site Specific Education also prioritizes authentic forms of presentation, so that students can have a meaningful purpose for perfecting skills as well as 'real world' models to emulate. At Charles Fortes, when students work with artists to create exhibits they are unifying disciplines, reinforcing knowledge, utilizing multiple forms of intelligence, learning to edit, to summarize, and are creating opportunities for critical thinking and problem-solving.
Funding for the Museum
Museum Project funding has come from the Disney Learning Partnership, the Elizabeth and Buff chase/United Way of Southern New England Foundation, Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.