RIC, Lippitt House Museum partner for a new, inter-disciplinary student internship program

A former Rhode Island governor’s home that has been occupied since 1865 and still houses residents, as well as a wealth of the state’s history, will soon become a “classroom” for three Rhode Island College students who will assist with daily operations and program development for the mansion turned museum.

The Governor Henry Lippitt House, in Providence, a three-story, 20-room Victorian, will support a team of three RIC interns each semester beginning this fall. Students majoring in art, anthropology, history, communication, political science or urban studies are eligible for the internship.

A reception to launch the program and welcome the first group of interns was held on May 23 at the Lippitt House. This year’s interns are Tiffany Cabral (art), Juliette Dumaine (anthropology) and Sarah Hudson (history).

The first team of interns will start in September and will create a children’s tour of the museum.

The students will work alongside staff of Preserve Rhode Island, an organization dedicated to protecting historic structures and unique places, as well as assist RIC faculty with research and archiving.

“Our goal is for the interns to be exposed to the workings of a private house museum and to apply knowledge and perspective gained through course work to an actual working museum,” said Connie West-O’Connor, development coordinator for Preserve Rhode Island, who devised the internship. West-O’Connor, a 1998 RIC graduate, was an intern at Lippitt House while a student at RIC.

She added that the interns will work together on the project and assist with tours and public programs.

Pictured are attendees of a reception to welcome RIC interns to the Lippitt House Museum. The students will work with Preserve Rhode Island staff and help RIC professors with scholarly work.
West-O’Connor said that this internship was unique because the house’s space lends itself to many different applications, such as a venue for public and private events in addition to functioning as a museum. A list of events is available at preserveri.org .

Henry Lippitt served as the state’s governor from 1875 to 1877. His son, Charles, was elected governor in 1895. Current R.I. Governor Lincoln Chafee is a direct descendent of Lippitt.

Built in 1863, the Lippitt House was designed as a showplace for textile merchant and later governor Henry Lippitt, his wife Mary Ann, and their six children, who moved into the house in 1865 and was occupied by generations of the Lippitt family for 114 years. When built, the house was considered on the cutting edge, boasting modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing and heating systems. Lippitt kept detailed records of every cost incurred with the purchase of the land, building construction and furnishings.

Visitors to the house included prominent Providence families, Alexander Graham Bell, Cole Porter and Jack Lemmon.

The house was designated as a national landmark in 1976. In 1979, Lippitt family descendants looked for stewards outside of the family to care for the home. The house was given to Preserve Rhode Island in the early 1980s. After nearly 10 years of restoration, the house was opened as a museum, yet retained the elaborate detail of high style Victorian decoration and family collections from the 19th century.

A portion of the mansion was converted into condominiums in the late 1980s.

For more information, contact Connie West-O’Connor, Preserve RI at 272-5101; coconnor@preserveri.org.