Library Hours:

– December 4-5, 11-12, and 18-19 and January 8-9: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reading Room Access Only

– Library resumes normal operations on January 14

Dear RIHS Friends,

We are thrilled to announce that construction on the Library has just concluded following the water event in December 2013 and planned renovations that took place over the summer and fall. Our staff is now working diligently to re-shelve collections that were moved to make way for the construction projects. For those of you familiar with our extensive collections, you know what a big job this is. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones when we again open our doors.

We understand that the Library closure has been a long and frustrating period for our researchers who rely so heavily on RIHS resources. Thus, we want to enable you, our patrons, to begin using the Library as soon as possible, even as the re-shelving work continues in the stacks.

With this in mind, we have designated a “soft opening” in December and early January during which the Reading Room will be open two days a week. During the soft opening, the Reading Room will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on the following dates: December 4-5, 11-12, and 18-19, as well as January 8-9. This soft opening will involve access to reading room resources only, but we hope it will allow researchers to ease back into their work while still allowing the collections team to do their work.

While Library staff will not yet be able to page materials from collections upstairs including the Manuscripts Collection, Graphics Collection and Printed Collection, all of our resources in the Reading Room will be available for patrons. These include: city directories; extensive genealogical resources, such as town and city histories, specific family genealogies, and periodicals, e.g. The American Genealogist (TAG), The Mayflower Descendant, New England Ancestors, New England Historic Genealogical Register, Rhode Island Roots and others; vertical files that provide access to photocopies from our graphics collections; microfilm and microfilm readers, which can be used to view nearly every Rhode Island newspaper published until the digital age, as well as Sanborn Fire Insurance maps; computer stations that provide access to Ancestry.com and the RI cemetery database, as well as a variety of online resources. Our card catalog and finding aids are also available in the Reading Room, so that patrons can plan which materials to request once the Library opens for normal operations.

On January 14, the Library will open fully to patrons and will resume its normal hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays, as well as the second Saturday of every month. Patrons will be able to access the Reading Room and will be able to page materials from our manuscript and print collections on the normal paging schedule.

There were so many individuals and organizations whose help proved invaluable to us this past year that we want to recognize publicly (and please forgive us for not being able to single out every individual–the help was vast!):

Thank you to Haynes De Boer Associates, E. W. Burman, Inc. and Phalanx Engineering who conducted and oversaw the extensive renovations and upgrades to the Library.

We also want to thank the disaster recovery teams from Enviro-Clean, Inc. and Polygon, as well as Donna DiMichele, Project Director for Protecting the Past, a department of the Office of Library Services of RI, and representatives from the John Hay Library at Brown University who were on hand quickly to lend support and offer expert advice after the water event. We also wish to thank Frank Richard of Esten & Richard Insurance for his great support during this process.  We are very grateful to the Providence Public Library for allowing us to offer limited access to our collections at their Library.

These renovations would not have been possible without support from the Save America’s Treasures program administered by the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Champlin Foundations, and the Mary Dexter Chaffee Fund.

And, we are indebted to you — our patrons, our members, our friends. We thank you for your incredible patience and goodwill during this difficult period. And, we look forward to seeing you and assisting you soon.

As ever,


C. Morgan Grefe, Ph.D.
Executive Director