The University of Rhode Island was founded in 1892, but the history of the land is much older and is intertwined with the history of Euro-Americans, enslaved Africans, and the Narragansett people. We are now offering a new 1-credit course to explore this complex and often contentious history, HIS/APG 392X: The URI Campus: A Walk Through Time. It is being co-taught by Lorén Spears, director of the Tomaquag Museum, Rhode Island’s first and only museum dedicated to educating the public and promoting thoughtful dialogue on Indigenous history, culture and arts as well as Native American issues of today. Professors from our Departments of History and Sociology and Anthropology join her in co-instruction.
The course, open to all majors and all years, introduces students to historical, anthropological, and indigenous sources such as artifacts, oral traditions, and maps. As part of an Arts and Sciences Fellowship, Cameron Garvey ’20 conducted in-depth research about URI’s campus prior to the establishment of the university, which helped inform both this course and a previously held walking tour of campus.
The photo included here is from 1889, courtesy of the URI Archives. Built around 1796, the Watson House is the oldest structure on the URI campus. In 1888, the house and surrounding 140-acre farm were purchased for $5,000 ($2,000 of which was contributed by local citizens) as a site for an agricultural experiment station and school.