R.I. Museum of Science and Art permanently closing June 1

Updated at 12: 22 p.m.

THE RHODE ISLAND Museum of Science and Art in Providence will permanently close on June 1. Its educational programming will be absorbed by the Rhode Island Computer Museum in North Kingstown. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND ART
THE RHODE ISLAND Museum of Science and Art in Providence will permanently close on June 1. Its educational programming will be absorbed by the Rhode Island Computer Museum in North Kingstown. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND ART

PROVIDENCE – A local science museum will be permanently closing early next month, but its educational programming will be absorbed by another museum approximately 30 minutes south of the city.

The Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art, located on Westminster Street across the street from Classical High School, announced Tuesday it will close its doors for good on June 1 after 12 years in operation – and five years at its current location. As of June 1, the museum’s educational outreach programming will be taken over by North Kingstown-based Rhode Island Computer Museum located in Quonset Business Park.

RIMOSA spokesperson Julia Miller told Providence Business News that the nonprofit museum could not maintain financial and staffing levels needed to continue operating as a standalone entity, hence the pending closure. She said it was largely because of the significant changes the museum had to make to remain a safe, hands-on museum during the COVID-19 pandemic, and those changes played into the museum’s financial calculus.

RIMOSA, founded in 2010, had encouraged children to experiment through hands-on STEAM-based exhibits and experiences to create problem solving. Once the computer museum absorbs RIMOSA’s programming, it will be referred as “RIMOSA Workshops Powered By RICM” from the computer museum’s learning lab, RIMOSA said.

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Miller said RIMOSA’s staff comprises a part-time, interim education director, a part-time museum docent, contract educators who teach the programs and part-time support staff. She said museum Executive Director Bonnie Epstein and board member Jennifer Pietros will join the computer museum’s leadership team in June to support the programming’s educational direction, while other RIMOSA staffer will leave when the museum closes.

Epstein in a statement Tuesday said RIMOSA focused primarily on the basis of learning and tinkering that does not involve computers, while the computer museum picks up in the areas that RIMOSA leaves off. She also said while she is sad that RIMOSA is closing, Epstein is “exceedingly happy” that the museum will continue its mission “in another shape” as part of the computer museum.

When RIMOSA closes, the museum said most of its exhibits will go into storage at the computer museum’s warehouse in North Kingstown. Those exhibits may appear from time to time at pop-up venues and festivals, RIMOSA said.

Other items, RIMOSA said, will be donated to other nonprofits across the state. The museum is currently taking inquiries on a first-come, first-serve basis through May 30 from nonprofit organizations for its larger assets, such as office and classroom furniture. Inquiries can be messaged via email at info@rimosa.org.

(SUBS 3rd paragraph to add detail on reasons for closure.)

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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