The Lippitt House Museum’s family drop-in program utilizes the historic house’s unique rooms to offer stationed hands-on activities. The Lippitt Lab program, which takes place once a month May through December, explores different aspects of 19th century and Victorian culture in Providence, RI, and in the United States as a whole. The program runs for two hours and gives families an opportunity to rotate through stations at their own pace and interact with docents and first-person interpreters. Topics include childhood and play, politics and elections, and holidays. Lippitt Labs are designed for everyone in a family to be engaged so docents layer the information in the most appropriate way for each visitor. Docents weave primary sources and artifacts in with engaging activities for adults and kids to work on together which keeps the program authentic. There is a focus on looking together at historical objects to learn the stories of the past, and at the house itself to gain insights into the Lippitt family and their domestic servants. Docents ask guiding questions to promote close looking and provide relevant information to adults who seek deeper historical information. To make the historical content relevant to kids’ lives, docents try to make contemporary comparisons.
Activities are distributed across several rooms of the historic house with a docent on hand to explain the activity, provide historical context, and offer demonstrations. Tables and chairs are set up so that all ages can be comfortable. The hands-on activities vary from month to month, but all have a focus on promoting conversation, looking closely, asking questions, making connections, and encouraging multi-generational interactions. After running the program for a few months, staff realized that not all visitors who came during the drop-in time had children or wanted to do the activities. The staff decided to create an accompanying self-guided tour as an alternative. Museum staff have also created a family guide which includes drawing and writing activities and provides an opportunity for more self-directed exploration into the house and history.
Special thanks to Jaclyn Delamatre, Curator of Education at the Lippitt House Museum. http://www.preserveri.org/