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'Faith & Freedom' Exhibit on RI's Religious History at Weaver Library

Traveling show premiering this week in East Providence.

Ellen Dempsey peruses the Faith and Freedom exhibit in the Champlin Program Room at Weaver Library. CREDIT: Joyce May
Ellen Dempsey peruses the Faith and Freedom exhibit in the Champlin Program Room at Weaver Library. CREDIT: Joyce May
In honor of the recent 350th anniversary of RI's charter from King Charles II, Weaver Librarian Joyce May and the RI Historical Society's Elyssa Tardif, Ph.D. have organized the premier exhibit of  "Rhode Island: Faith and Freedom."

The exhibit, a 12-panel display of obscure and quirky Rhode Island history, was put together by Tardif, director of the Newell D. Goff Center for Education and Public Progress at the RI Historical society, said May.

The exhibit explores the faith communities that took root in Rhode Island with Roger Williams then spread throughout the centuries that followed. It also tells how the freedoms of Rhode Islanders have been expanded, 
limited, celebrated and denied at various points in the state's history.  

Items and persons depicted and described on the panels include:

Jemima is Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819), who founded a radical religious sect combining elements of Quakerism and New Light Baptism.  She had a religious transformation at 24 when she nearly died of a fever. Believed to have been sent back to life by God to preach to the world, she adopted the name "Publick Universal Friend" and went by that name for the rest of her life. 

The Apple Root Roger Williams died in 1683 and was buried on his property in the area that is now College Hill. When descendants moved Williams' grave site in 1860, the group found a large root in the original grave. The root was from a nearby apple tree and it was shaped like a human.  Some claim that the root had formed around Williams' skeletal remains, but this is more in the realm of myth than scientific fact.   

May and Tardiff met during a seminar on the benefits of collaboration between libraries, May said. When Tardiff put the exhibit together, she invited Weaver Library to premier the traveling showing. "I said of course," May said.

On Monday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. Brown University historian Dr. Linford Fisher will present a lecture highlighting themes of the exhibit.

The exhibit will be hung in the Champlin Program Room and be open most library hours from Jan. 7 - 31. Contact the library for more information: 401-434-2453. 

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