Our Mission

The Rhode Island Historical Society, through its collections, museums, and educational initiatives, welcomes everyone to engage with Rhode Island’s complex and significant past.

Our Purpose

As an important cultural institution in Rhode Island, we use materials and knowledge of the past to explore topics of timeless relevance and current public interest and benefit. Inside and outside of the walls of our buildings, the RIHS encourages broad engagement in the diversity of experiences we offer. We develop and deploy our collections, knowledge, connections, and expertise to build relationships between individuals, organizations, and communities to enhance understanding and empathy, and to engender pride of place.

Our Vision

As the sole Rhode Island history organization whose purview encompasses the entire state, we seek to:

  • Provide a model of research, preservation, and presentation and then share our expertise in collections management and educational programming;
  • Cultivate a collaborative network to advance and revitalize the history and heritage sector in Rhode Island;
  • Deliver high-quality programming to our current audiences, and expand our reach to underserved groups, by improving our facilities and using technology more effectively; 
  • Ensure that staff, board and volunteers all exemplify mission-based financial sustainability, economic transparency, community engagement, and ethical leadership.
  • Consistently communicate our mission and actions through both traditional and new media; and
  • Advocate for history education to help Rhode Island’s K-12 teachers and students deepen their historical knowledge and develop empathy, 21st-century skills, and pride in Rhode Island.

Our Core Values

  • The RIHS aims to nurture a passion for history in its patrons, staff, and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.
  • The RIHS is committed to providing a culture that reflects respect for all RIHS staff, volunteers, patrons, and their work.
  • The RIHS embraces a visitor-first philosophy.  
  • The RIHS endeavors to engage and document all of Rhode Island’s diverse communities and to serve as the foremost conduit for Rhode Island’s past to researchers, scholars, teachers, and the public.
  • The RIHS aims to connect people to their personal histories, and to our shared history, so they may better understand and appreciate differing points of view in the past and present, and make more informed choices for our common future.
  • The RIHS fosters an exchange of ideas through engaging and welcoming exhibitions, displays, and programs, in-person and online, and encourages mutually beneficial collaborations.
  • The RIHS showcases the unique treasures of the state of Rhode Island and celebrates the work of individuals and organizations that share the Society’s values.
  • The RIHS values integrity, transparency, and the highest standards of professionalism in all aspects of its work, through which it seeks to earn and maintain the public’s trust.
  • The RIHS pursues precision, accuracy, and comprehensiveness when interpreting history, and makes sure to base those interpretations on evidence and consideration of multiple viewpoints. 
  • The RIHS pledges to practice fiscal responsibility.
  • The RIHS seeks to attract and retain a board of trustees who will be stewards of our mission, be engaged in our vision, and govern fairly and competently.

Our Strategic Plan

Our Idea Plan

Rhode Island Historical Society Fast Facts

  • The RIHS is the only state-wide history organization in Rhode Island.
  • Founded in 1822, we are the fourth oldest historical society in the nation.
  • The RIHS includes two museums, a research center, and two historic houses.
  • We are the first Smithsonian Affiliate in Rhode Island.
  • More than 30 staff members and 145 volunteers make all of our work possible.
  • We serve 25,000 in-person visitors and 130,000 virtual visitors annually.
  • Our collection includes 20,000 objects, including armaments, furnishings, paintings, textiles, sculptures, toys, adornments, tools, vehicles, and more.
  • In addition, we hold over 10 million pages of manuscripts and 9 million feet of moving picture film.
  • We also preserve and care for over 100,000 books, 194,000 photographs, 3,000 maps, 19,000 prints, 900 broadsides, 4,000 drawings, 20,000 architectural drawings, 3,000 sound recordings, and 16,000 pieces of emphera.
  • The RIHS is a leading contributor to both the education and tourism sectors of Rhode Island’s economy.