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Rhode Island Begins

Roger Williams's Compass-Sundial
In the beginning, there were Wampanoag and Narragansett people, among others. There were villages and crops, the ocean and the Bay. The Native Americans who lived in what is now Rhode Island had long-standing “customes, manners, and worships,” as Roger Williams called them in his 1643 “A Key into the Language of America.”
This is the point of departure for the joint exhibit, Customes, Manners and Worships: Rhode Island Begins  organized by the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Haffenreffer Museum at Brown University, currently on display in the museum at Manning Hall on Brown’s campus. Among the objects displayed are the compass and sundial shown here, owned by Roger Williams, but not (so far as we know) used by him to find his way to what is now Providence. The background is a waistcoat owned by Daniel Updike, who took up residence at Cocumcossuc in South County, on the site of what had been Roger Williams’s South County outpost. Updike’s waistcoat, though not displayed at the Haffenreffer, dates to about 1740; a very similar example is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Like the waistcoat, Mr. Updike’s wife Anstis Updike’s portrait (seen below) represents the later end of the show’s scope.
Anstis Updike
Anstis Updike, by Nehemiah Partridge
The Haffenreffer’s collections include finely-wrought examples of Native American artifacts, including a stone bear effigy pipe and a large wooden bowl. Seen together, the Native American and English artifacts give visitors a better sense of the equality of sophistication of the cultures who met in New England, and the ways in which they changed each other in the decades before King Philip’s War.
Admission to the Haffenreffer Museum is free. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 to 4. The Museum is closed Mondays and Brown University holidays. Please call 401-863-2065 for more information.  Customes, Manners, and Worships closes Sunday, April 15, 2012. ~KNH

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