At the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center (RRC), students of all ages can gain valuable experience working with RIHS’s vast collection of printed items, manuscripts, and graphics. They can read through the original diaries written by Rhode Islanders or examine old pictures to see firsthand the dramatic changes in Rhode Island’s skyline. As students use RIHS collection, they will not only learn strategies for researching in archives and interpreting primary sources but also develop a deeper connection to their local history.


Free-for-All Tour Options

Standard Research Center Orientation (60 minutes):

The RRC offers orientations led by our librarians and curators, who provide students with an overview of the Rhode Island Historical Society, the RRC, and our varied collections. Each orientation option includes a selection of materials from collections to support a chosen topic (see topic list below). Our librarians will also provide students with a resource list with collection highlights for the chosen topic.

Topic options for standard orientation:

  • Introduction to Research in a Special Collections Library
    Our librarians provide students an introduction to our catalogs, finding aids, online galleries, indexes, and comprehensive research strategies and tips for making the best use of their research time.
  • Researching Early Rhode Island History
    The RRC holds excellent resources on the settlement of the colony in 1636 by Roger Williams and the native peoples who preceded him. Our librarians will provide an overview of our earliest collections documenting Rhode Island history.
  • Rhode Island and the Slave Trade
    Our librarians provide students with key strategies for using the collections pertinent to the slave trade and related industries. Materials include an in-depth review of the “Papers of the American Slave Trade” collection on microfilm, as well as the “Guide to People of Color in the RIHS Collections.”
  • Rhode Island Women’s History
    Students will learn about strategies for researching women in Rhode Island, including highlights from personal papers, diaries, and women’s organizations prominent in Rhode Island.
  • Introduction to Architectural Research
    The RIHS architectural collections are extensive — and can sometimes be overwhelming! This orientation will focus on researching Rhode Island’s built environment through architectural drawings, maps, photographs, industrial reports, and other resources.
  • Avi’s Something Upstairs
    Our librarians provide a first-hand look at manuscript collections, microfilmed newspapers, and maps related to the people, places, and events depicted in Something Upstairs. This is followed by a group discussion about how collections like ours are used to develop historical fiction.
  • National History Day Theme
    Our librarians will share primary resources from the collections reflecting the current NHD theme. Students will then get a chance to ask librarians for research strategies for their projects.


Additional Research Center Options

Customized RRC Orientation (60 minutes) ($50)
A RIHS librarian will work with you to develop an orientation customized to the specific course topic, including a tailored resource list.

Class visit by a RIHS librarian (Up to 60 minutes) ($50)
A RIHS librarian will visit your class to provide an introduction to the Research Center and our collections. This also includes digital scans of three items from the RIHS collections for classroom use.


Availability and Contact Information

Orientations held at the Research Center have a limit of 15 students, though we can accommodate larger groups by booking two sessions (back to back or on separate days). We require faculty, teachers, and/or chaperones to stay with the group at all times.

RRC Orientations are available by reservation Mondays and Tuesdays, between 9:30am and 4:00pm. RIHS librarians can visit classrooms Monday through Friday, between 9:00am and 4:00pm.

Contact Information:
121 Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906
Michelle Chiles, Research Center Manager
401-273-8017 x410


We recommend scheduling your program at least four weeks in advance to secure preferred times. Free rates are available only to educational groups who schedule tours in advance.

Since our staff works very hard to make each tour meaningful for each group, and time slots are limited to one group at a time, any cancellation must be made three business days before a scheduled tour. In the event of a late cancellation (barring those related to weather that affect either the school district or the RIHS site), groups will be charged a late fee of $25. A credit card will be required for booking.