Under Lock and Key

Museum of Work and Culture Keeps History Safe

Never lose track of your family’s most important mementos.

Factory time cards and war ration books might seem unlikely objects for safe deposit boxes, unless those boxes are located at Woonsocket’s Museum of Work and Culture.

The museum, a division of the Rhode Island Historical Society, is devoted to Rhode Island’s industrial heritage, particularly the immigrant French Canadian experience of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Blackstone Valley mill towns.

The use for the safe deposit boxes arose out of Rhode Islanders’ generosity, says museum director Anne Conway. “People would bring in their treasures, their stories, their photos.” It was impossible to display all the donated materials, and so they began having patrons keep custody of their mementos, while storing them at the museum. Box holders retain a key, just as they do at a bank. Engraved with their owners’ names, the cubbies aren’t hidden away in a vault; they’ve become a museum exhibit.

The safe deposit box concept has recently been updated, with people being invited “to create their own time capsules,” says Conway. Families, graduating classes and other groups are encouraged to revisit their treasures whenever they want to relive the good old days of 2015. 42 South Main St., Woonsocket, 769-9675, rihs.org.


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