Inside the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center in the Time of COVID-19

Tools of the Trade

This Fall I interned at the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society as part of my graduate program. Watching the Center fluctuate between being partially open and mostly closed, I felt very fortunate to have been able to have an in-person internship and found the experience to be a wonderful help in my studies.

I greatly enjoyed working with original manuscripts and being able to look through old directories for information. In a world that is becoming more and more digital, there is still something beautiful in holding original materials and papers that are hundreds of years old.

Before interning here, I had had no idea of the scope of collections that historical societies have nor how much they add to society. Noticing how much the Rhode Island Historical Society offers the community is incredible to me, from walking tours, to educational and outreach programs, to the museums and the houses, in addition to the archives and historical preservation. I have a much greater appreciation for historical societies and for the central role they can, and should, play in society, connecting its past to create a promising future.

The days that I had to work from home wound up being the hardest because I found myself missing the environment and energy of the center. Being surrounded by so much history was inspiring and daunting, and being able to handle the original materials relating to the projects I was working on was engaging and eye opening. Spending time with the Edward Carrington Papers, the Dunnell Manufacturing Company Sample Books, and the Jabez Gorham Family Papers taught me a lot about the history of Rhode Island and gave me an appreciation for the businesses that helped shape the state into what it is today. 

I am leaving with a newfound inspiration to practice my calligraphy and to more clearly label and organize everything. Rather than being overwhelmed or feeling that the work was too tedious, (although there is quite a bit of work, do not get me wrong), I found myself not wanting to leave and looking forward to coming back. Working at the Robinson Research Center was much more than a job/internship; it was a place where I found I wanted to be. While I was working, I would also notice skills that I was practicing and kept feeling inspired to take them into my life after work, whether that be reorganizing and labeling my paperwork and belongings at home or engaging my housemates in the things I learned about the history of Rhode Island.

The library cart with all the collections I worked on!

I am very grateful for my intern experience and would like to thank everyone for their support and kindness throughout my time there. 

Simmons College, Fall 2020 Intern

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