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GUEST BLOGGER: 'The Missing Chapter' Provides Perspective on Local History
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Guest blogger: Kyle Ratté

An intriguing, original documentary is premiering on Rhode Island PBS on May 4, as part of the ongoing Rhode Island PBS series, Rhode Island Stories. The Missing Chapter will take you to the historic Coggeshall Farm Museum to experience the lives of tenant farmers in Bristol, Rhode Island, in the late 18th century. This documentary is centered around the narratives of tenant farmers during a crucial period after the American Revolution and before the sweeping changes brought by the Industrial Revolution.

The film unfolds through a series of story lines such as: the morality of practices like slavery, renegotiations of gender roles, the American Milking Devon as an endangered breed, and the quality of the diet in the 1790s. The film also addresses the living history museum's hope to become an international resource, spreading awareness about the importance of preserving institutions like the Coggeshall Farm Museum.

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As a living history museum, the working farm is operated as it would have been in the late 18th century, and showcases a dynamic period in American history not found anywhere else. The Coggeshall Farm Museum provides a setting for the program that will give you an authentic and accurate perspective on the time period.

This documentary aims to fill the void of what you didn't learn in high school American History, with a local focus immersing you in the day-to-day routine of those who lived through it. The Missing Chapter does not intend to recognize famous figures or emphasize critical events but instead sheds light on a point in time that has been under-appreciated in history, through the modest lens of the average farm worker.

The making of this film also serves to document the experiment by Coggeshell Farm employees and volunteers to go deeper than what they can read in books and accounts; they actually experience how life would have been at the time by limiting themselves to a lifestyle that uses only what would have been available in the 1790s.

This entertaining and informative documentary premieres on Rhode Island PBS on Thursday, May 4 at 8 P.M., with rebroadcasts on Saturday, May 6 at 11 P.M,. and Sunday, May 7 at 7 P.M.