Museum Collections Research & Access


NETOP Online Catalog

To begin research on something in the collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society, or to explore whether we have what you might be seeking, it is usually best to begin with a search of our NETOP online public access catalog. About half the Society’s collection is presently listed on NETOP, and more items are included every day, as our various cataloging projects proceed.

Search NETOP.

Rhode Island Historical Society Library

If you can’t find what you are looking for, it may still be useful to visit the Library in person or to contact members of the Collections Staff to see if they can help. All collections that mainly involve the written or printed word or are images of any kind (except for paintings) are kept in the Society’s Library (121 Hope Street, Providence). They may be seen or used there according to the Library’s schedule. To view the Library Home Page, click here.

The Society’s Museum Collections

The paintings and objects not kept in the Library are almost all stored or displayed at the John Brown House Museum (52 Power Street, Providence), which is where the Society’s Museum Department is located. Research requests to physically examine or inquire about objects in the museum collections should be directed to the Collections Staff (collections@rihs.org). Requests to view objects not on display must be submitted in writing (Access Application Form) at least six weeks in advance of the proposed visit. About 300 museum collections objects are on public display at the John Brown House Museum. To visit the John Brown House Museum home page, click here.

A smaller number of museum collection objects are on display at the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket. To go to the Museum of Work and Culture home page, click here.

Museum Collection Objects (Rights and Reproduction)

Researchers often wish to have photographs of the documents or objects they consult or examine. Many objects in the Museum and in the Library collections have existing negatives from which photographic copies can be made. To determine whether the item of interest to you has an existing negative, please contact reproductions@rihs.org.

Of course, you may request new photography of objects in the RIHS collections, including having photographs made of objects that have not previously been photographed. To do so, please contact reproductions@rihs.org.

A Word on Fees for Rights and Reproductions

The Rhode Island Historical Society charges fees to use or make images of material in our collections. These fees are comparable to, and often lower than, the fees charged by similar private libraries and museums in New England. We need the income from these charges to help sustain our ability to care for the many, often irreplaceable, historical items in our charge. Please remember that, though we are the designated state historical society in the sense of being the only Rhode Island historical institution with a state-wide and historically comprehensive mission, we are a private, non-profit organization that receives only modest financial support from the government of the state of Rhode Island. By paying fees to make images of collection objects and to publish those images, you are playing a vital role in assisting us to be able to save the past for the future.

We do offer discounts to non-profit or educational groups. To see our collection use fee structure, click here