Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum to Receive $444,282 Federal Funding for New Home at URI Campus

In a joint announcement today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Congressmen Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo, said that the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Rhode Island is set to receive $444,282 in federal funding. The grant, administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities, aims to facilitate the construction of a new permanent facility for the museum, marking a significant milestone for Rhode Island’s only Native-led museum.

The Tomaquag Museum, hailed by Senator Jack Reed as “one of the best small museums in the entire country,” holds a diverse collection of both old and new artifacts. Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee overseeing NEH funding, emphasized the museum’s dedication to highlighting Southern New England Indigenous traditions, heritage, history, and culture.

The federal funding will support the relocation and expansion of the Tomaquag Museum to the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus. This move aligns with the museum’s mission to provide an immersive experience where history comes alive, reaching wider audiences and fostering a deeper understanding of Indigenous communities.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who successfully nominated the Tomaquag Museum for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2016, highlighted the museum’s vital role in educating the public and honoring local Indigenous communities. He expressed his pleasure at the funding, emphasizing its role in supporting the museum’s relocation and expansion, making Rhode Island’s cultural heritage more accessible to its residents.

Representative Seth Magaziner stressed the importance of preserving Rhode Island’s Indigenous communities’ stories and educating the public about the tribes that have stewarded the land for generations. He expressed his thrill at the federal funding, emphasizing the crucial role the Tomaquag Museum plays in this mission.

Congressman Gabe Amo echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the museum’s significance in allowing Rhode Island’s Native peoples to tell their own story. He eagerly anticipated the utilization of federal funds for the museum’s relocation, expansion, and continued sharing of Southern New England’s Indigenous history with all Rhode Islanders.

Currently located in Exeter, the Tomaquag Museum engages up to 15,000 members of the public annually through onsite and offsite programming. With the new funding, the museum’s new site in Kingston is expected to accommodate over 150,000 visitors annually, showcasing its unique collection and highlighting the Narragansett Nation.

Lorén Spears, Executive Director of the Tomaquag Museum, expressed gratitude for the award, thanking the delegation for their support. She eagerly anticipated sharing more details about the museum’s plans in the coming months.

In addition to this recent funding, Senator Whitehouse secured two federal earmarks totaling $1.2 million in FY2023, further supporting the Tomaquag Museum’s Indigenous Empowerment Center and archival preservation activities. These earmarks will play a crucial role in the later phases of the Kingston facility project, incorporating components of the Indigenous Empowerment Center and supporting archival preservation for exhibit planning and public access.




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