Little Compton Historical Society Trip

Outside the “Everyone was a Farmer” exhibit. Photo: Dietrich Neumann
December 10, 2021

Steven Lubar is the Director of Brown University Center for Digital Scholarship, and Professor of American Studies and History.

On a chilly but sunny November day ten public humans took a field trip to Little Compton. Marjory O'Toole (2018 MA in Public Humanities) invited us to visit the Little Compton Historical Society to see the organization’s new permanent exhibit, "Everyone Was a Farmer.”

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In the Wilbor House Museum. Photo: Dietrich Neumann

The exhibit explores the history of farming in Little Compton and farming's central role in the community from the traditional practices of the Sakonnet people in the 17th century to the over 20 commercial farms operating today. Marjory, second year MA student Katie Coggins, Professor Steven Lubar, and many community members worked together to create it. Katie, Steve and Marjory led a walk through the exhibit to discuss the research that went into creating it, how it combines local history subject matter with issues of race, class, and gender, and the ways that the historical society engages  with the different groups that make up its community and fund its exhibitions. We also had time for a quick tour of the Historical Society's c. 1690 historic house museum and its collections and archival storage areas.

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At Commons Lunch. Photo: Dietrich Neumann

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At the Old Burial Ground. Photo: Dietrich Neumann

After a traditional lunch at the Commons Restaurant (clam cakes!) Marjory gave us a tour of the Old Burial Ground on Little Compton's quintessential New England commons. She discussed the public humanities lessons found in old cemeteries and a taught a quick lesson in how to read the changing iconography of gravestones. We also visited the remnants of the town's lost "Negro Burying Ground" and the stone the Historical Society erected in 2016 in memory of Little Compton's enslaved people.