School and Group Tours

The John Brown House Museum: One House, A Thousand Stories


Visit the museum with your students and open a door to Rhode Island’s extraordinary history! See the 18th century world of the Brown family come alive as you walk through the many rooms of their impressive home.

School tours discuss life in early America, Rhode Island’s role in the American Revolution, in the Triangle Trade, and in the China Trade. Tours are lead by well trained docents and can be modified to fit the needs of your class.


Bring your lesson plans to life at the John Brown House Museum!


The Rhode Island Historical Society has made all standard educational tours, including those with special needs accommodations, free to Rhode Island schools!

This expansion of resources at the RIHS’s Goff Center for Education and Public Programs has been made possible by recent major donations, including an anonymous bequest.

We are also offering funding towards busing for Title 1 Schools through the Klyberg Fund for Educational Access!  Scroll to the bottom to find out more.


Free For All Offerings:

John Brown House Docent-Led Tours (60 minutes)

  • General John Brown House Museum
    Walk through the John Brown house and learn about life in the 18th-century, as well as some of the most pressing issues of the day, including slavery, the American Revolution, the merchant/China trade, and the significant role of Rhode Island in the history of our nation.
  • For all the Tea in China
    In 1787, John Brown’s ship The General Washington was the first vessel to sail from Rhode Island to China in pursuit of trade. Evidence of this China trade can be found hidden throughout the Brown mansion, even in something as quotidian as the presence of tea and porcelain. Learn about the products the ship sent to China and the treasures it brought back!
  • “That Unrighteous Traffick” — The Slave Trade
    This program focuses on the Brown family’s involvement with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Walk through the “Forgotten History: Rhode Island and the Slave Trade” exhibit as we engage in debates between John Brown and ardent abolitionist brother Moses.
  •  Decorative Arts / Architecture – New for fall 2017. Description forthcoming

Plan a same-day visit to our Robinson Research Center Library! See their page for tour options.


Add-On Options


Activities can be added onto any of the above-listed tours.

  • Web of Complicity (30 minutes, $2 per student)
    This activity is intended to familiarize participants with many of the people and materials needed to prepare a ship for a slave trading voyage in the eighteenth century and to illustrate with a hands-on activity the connections and relationships that stretched from farms to the sea in the global enterprise of the slave trade.  This activity can be easily added onto one of the above-listed tours.

Walking Tours (90 minutes)

Walking tours can be added onto any of the above-listed tours or scheduled on their own.

  • Avi’s Something Upstairs  ($3 per student, $60 minimum)
    Step back in time and explore the streets of Providence through the lens of Avi’s Something Upstairs. This book has captivated young readers for three decades with its blend of time travel, ghosts, fact, and fiction. We’ll walk the same streets as Kenny and Caleb, visit the waterfront, and see the very house in which the story is set. Students will learn about life in 1800, Rhode Island’s involvement in the slave trade, and the traits of historic fiction.
    Recommended for: Young readers, fourth grade or above. The tour is 90 minutes long and covers one mile. Students should have finished the book, or be nearly finished, before participating in the tour.
  • Benefit Street: A Mile of History  ($5 per student, $100 minimum)
    Created in the mid-18th century “for the benefit of all,” this Colonial thoroughfare offers an enviable collection of 18th and early 19th century wood-frame houses. Although the street might seem like a museum mile, it is actually a vital urban neighborhood enhanced by ongoing preservation efforts since the 1950s. Students will learn about preservation efforts, as well as the fascinating history of colonial construction.
  • H.P. Lovecraft Walk: A Literary Life  ($5 per student, $100 minimum)
    Walk through places known and loved by Providence’s best-known fantasy and horror author. Lovecraft was a  master of detailed description, and his words offer a most amazing historical and architectural tour.
  • Women’s History Walk  ($5 per student, $100 minimum)
    This walk celebrates the courage, spirit, and achievements of remarkable women. As educators, entrepreneurs, artists, and scientists, women like Helen Metcalf (founder of RISD), Sarah Helen Whitman (poet, spiritualist, friend of Edgar Allen Poe), Lillian Gilbreth (industrial engineer), and Christiana Bannister (hairdresser and philanthropist), made heroic and lasting contributions to our community. This tour explores the remarkable contributions made by women to RI’s history.
  • Custom tours – Call for availability and price.

Availability & Contact Information
School tours are available by reservation Tuesday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Contact Information
52 Power Street, Providence, RI 02906
Gabriella George: (401) 273-7507 Ext. 362

We recommend scheduling your program at least four weeks in advance to secure preferred times. Free rates are available only to groups who schedule tours in advance.

Deposit and Cancellation Policy
Since our staff works very hard to make each tour meaningful for each group, and time slots are limited to one group at a time, any cancellation must be made three business days before a scheduled tour. In the event of a late cancellation (barring those related to weather that affect either the school district or the RIHS site), groups will be charged a late fee of $25. A credit card will be required for booking.

Group Size
The maximum number of students per program is 40, though if you plan to add a walking tour, we can accommodate up to 80 students.  Lunch may be eaten on the lawn.  In case of rain, lunch must be eaten on the bus.

For groups including participants under age 18, we require one chaperone for every ten students.

Special Needs
Please call for accommodations for participants in wheelchairs or walkers.  Please inform us of any needs your group may have.  We are committed to having our programs accessible to all.


The Klyberg Fund for Educational Access

Thanks to a generous bequest from former director, long-time supporter, and friend, Albert T. Klyberg, the Rhode Island Historical Society has created a fund to help defray the cost of transportation for Rhode Island Title I schools. Fund awardees will receive up to $400 to help underwrite the cost of bus transportation to our sites. Applications will be reviewed on a “first-received, first-funded” basis until available funds are depleted. Applications can be downloaded here.  Bus fund applications for the John Brown House Museum can be scanned and sent to or faxed to 401-270-7190.


Gaspee Affair

The Goff Center is proud to collaborate with other distinguished Providence institutions including the Providence Preservation Society, Governor Stephen Hopkins House, The First Baptist Church in America, and the Providence Athenaeum.