Historical Research in Rhode Island Will Never Be the Same …

historical research in rhode island
Courtesy of the Danville, Vermont, Historical Society

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For the first time in more than 50 years, historians, students, authors, and genealogists from across New England – and around the world – will no longer be visiting the Rhode Island Historical Society Library to pursue their work.  

Instead, they’ll be visiting the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, named in honor of one of the RIHS’s most extraordinary supporters.

“Very few institutions are lucky enough to have such true benefactors – a person who has given support in so many forms – but we are that fortunate. Mrs. Robinson helped to shape the Rhode Island Historical Society for more than half a century,” RIHS Executive Director C. Morgan Grefe said.

“We are very proud of the work the RIHS has accomplished thanks to her generosity,” Grefe added. “While always staying behind the scenes, her support was deeply felt, and we are a better and stronger institution because of her. The Research Center will be a place to support those who are fascinated by history – and I can think of no better tribute to this extraordinary woman.”

The Robinson Research Center will continue to house upward of 5,000 manuscripts, 100,000 books and printed items, 400,000 photographs and maps, and 9 million feet of motion-picture film. Its collection currently holds more than 25,000 objects and counting.


“This is the ideal moment for us to transition our Library into the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the RIHS,” Grefe said. “Our recent physical transformation is matched by our dedication to making the RIHS a place for true, historical learning – not only a place to learn the facts of history, but a place to learn the processes of historical research and inquiry. Mrs. Robinson was many things, but one characteristic that could not be overlooked was her insatiable curiosity about history, organizations, furniture, art, and culture. We strive to be a place where inquiry and curiosity is prized and matched only with our dedication to protect all of our history for everyone and anyone to access.”


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