We are so proud to announce:

Tomaquag Museum Awarded Nation’s Highest Museum Honor

National Medal for Museum and Library Service 


Exeter, R.I. (April 19, 2016) – The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced Tomaquag Museum of Exeter, Rhode Island, as one of 10 recipients of the 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. For 22 years, the award has celebrated institutions that respond to societal needs in innovative ways, making a difference for individuals, families, and their communities. The award will be presented at an event in Washington, D.C., on June 1.


Founded in 1958, Tomaquag Museum is Rhode Island’s only Native American museum serving as a bridge to promote better understanding between the Native community’s needs, history, culture and impact on today’s society. Tomaquag helps in the healing process of Indigenous people by allowing them to tell their stories from their own perspective and experience. The museum’s archive houses many of these oral histories. The museum’s podcast, which has already reached over 9,000 downloads since January 2015, is sharing some of these stories. Its goal is to empower Indigenous people, engage the mainstream community and educate through its many programs, partnerships, films, books, tours, exhibits, lectures, workshops and classes.

“This year’s National Medal recipients show the transforming role of museums and libraries from educational destinations to full-fledged community partners and anchors,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “We are proud to recognize the extraordinary institutions that play an essential role in reaching underserved populations and catalyzing new opportunities for active local involvement.”


“The staff and board of Tomaquag Museum are so proud to receive this most prestigious honor. We are grateful that our work is empowering the Indigenous community and educating the public through engaging cultural experiences, including our exhibits, offsite programs and partnerships across the region,” said Lorén Spears, executive director of Tomaquag Museum. “We are thankful for the nomination by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.”


“Congratulations to the Tomaquag Museum on bringing this prestigious national honor to Rhode Island,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “I was proud to nominate the Museum for its impressive work preserving Rhode Island’s Native American culture. The Museum is an exceptional resource that I hope will honor the important heritage of Rhode Island’s indigenous people for generations to come.”


"Tomaquag Museum is a special place and incredibly deserving of this award.  They do a tremendous job engaging visitors and the community.  It is the only museum in the state operated by Native people and one of the best small museums you'll find anywhere in the country," said Senator Jack Reed, who authored and successfully passed the Museum and Library Services Act, which annually provides needed federal assistance to museums and libraries across the country.  Reed's law authorizes these medals and includes state formula funding and competitive grants, administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which help museums and libraries meet community needs, better utilize technology to provide enhanced services and reach underserved populations.


Community member Christian Hopkins, of the Narragansett Tribe, will accompany Spears in Washington, D.C., for the June event. Through film, Hopkins has shared his story of how Tomaquag Museum has impacted his life through our education programs, Thanksgivings, and internships. Tomaquag Museum has had a positive impact on Rhode Island in many ways—sharing traditional arts and culture, partnering with diverse organizations, and educating through tours, workshops, lectures and classes.


“I am beyond proud and so incredibly excited for the Tomaquag Museum on this well-deserved, prestigious honor. The National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the ultimate recognition for museums and libraries, and it is a testament to the Tomaquag Museum’s tireless efforts to not only preserve and honor Rhode Island history, but also to engage Rhode Islanders of all ages so we can better understand our state – and our own – heritage,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “Congratulations to Loren and the entire Tomaquag team on this accomplishment. You have made Rhode Island proud, and I am deeply grateful for your commitment to our state’s rich history.”


The recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service demonstrate impactful programs and services that exceed the expected levels of community outreach. They were selected from 30 finalists from across the country nominated for the honor.


After the ceremony, StoryCorps—a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans—will visit Tomaquag Museum to document stories from the community. “We are thrilled to have the stories of Rhode Island’s First Peoples recorded, preserved and shared nationwide through StoryCorps,” said Michael Johnson Tomaquag Marketing and Media Manager.


For a complete list of 2016 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, please visit https://www.imls.gov/2016-medals


About Tomaquag Museum

Tomaquag Museum, Rhode Island’s only museum entirely dedicated to telling the story of the Indigenous Peoples was established in 1958. It is a Native led non-profit museum. Tomaquag serves as a cultural bridge between the past, present and future as well as a facilitator between the Indigenous communities and the diverse world.


Through our unique collection, lectures, tours, offsite programs and arts & educator workshops, we educate the public regarding Native history, culture, arts, current events and environmental issues. The Museum is visited each year by artists, researchers, students, and travelers from across the United States and throughout the world.   For more information www.tomaquagmuseum.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.   



About the Institute of Museum and Library Services 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Lorén Spears

Executive Director

Tomaquag Museum
390 A Summit Road
Exeter, RI 02822

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