Two junior docents at the Hammond Grist Mill, Gilbert Stuart Museum, Saunderstown, RI Photo: Marie Boscia
Gilbert Stuart Birthplace
Gilbert Stuart is considered the master portraitist
of his age; by happy coincidence his life coincided with a seminal
period (1755-1828) in American history. Stuart was the third child
of a Scottish immigrant who operated the first snuff mill in
America. For seven years, Gilbert lived with his family in South
County, before moving with them to Newport, Rhode Island. After
another seven years, Gilbert embarked on his studies abroad. When
he returned from England to America, he pursued a successful career
as a portraitist in Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Boston.
He continued to create memorable portraits, painting over 1,000
notable men and women, including the first six founding fathers of
our country and five of their wives. Currently his portraits hang
in museums all over the world, and his portrait of George
Washington is seen daily by millions of Americans as they handle
their one dollar bills.
The Gilbert Stuart Museum, at the site of his
birthplace in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, honors his legacy. It
creates a journey back in time, with a restored 18th century
working man's home, snuff mill, grist mill. In 1966, the Museum was
designated a registered national landmark. Founded in 1930, the
mission of the Museum is to perpetuate the memory of Gilbert
Stuart, maintain a museum dedicated to him, promote interest in the
knowledge of his life, art, and times. It is supported entirely by
membership dues, private donations an several grants. Annual
visitors number about 4,000 adults and 2,400 children.
From the beginning of her tenure at the Gilbert
Stuart Museum, museum curator Deborah Thompson was interested in
developing ways to use the Stuart birthplace setting to interest
and educate young people about the history of their community. One
of Thompson's ideas was to engage children in a more active role by
inviting them to become tour guides themselves, thus giving birth
to the Gilbert Stuart Museum Junior Docent Program. Children of the
local elementary schools enter a competition to become a docent by
writing a report, poem, short story, or dialog about Stuart's life,
his portraits, or his birthplace. Through its Junior Docent
Program, the Museum's local legacy is to foster young people's
interest in the history of the colonial era by involving them in
the historical activities of the Museum.
The project is documented with 12-page report; 10
mounted 8 x 10 color photographs, poems and essays by and
interviews of junior docents; an audio tape, "Gibby's Welcome,"
recorded by a junior docent speaking in the persona of young
Gilbert Stuart; Museum brochures, laminated newspaper clippings on
the Museum, and a flyer advertising the Junior Docent program, a
Museum totebag and tee-shirt.
Originally submitted by: Robert Weygand, Representative (2nd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.