The Society’s Collections

The Rhode Island Historical Society has the largest and most comprehensive collections pertaining to Rhode Island’s history.

Collect. Preserve. Share. These words express the essential purpose of the Rhode Island Historical Society, which has worked to document, preserve and disseminate the Ocean State’s history since the RIHS’s founding in 1822. Through exhibitions, publications, lectures, and research programs, the RIHS reaches the wider world. But at the Society’s core are its collections: 600,000 items or groups of books, photographs, manuscripts, maps, plans, paintings, printed ephemera, furniture, clothing, items of domestic life, films, videos, sound recordings, and countless other categories of the past’s material culture.

Each of these items can launch an expedition into the past, and sustain a journey of discovery about ourselves, our communities, and the people and circumstances of other times that helped form the world we know today. We invite you to use our collections to examine past lives and future possibilities.

Donations: Adding Your Collection to Our Collection

We encourage donations of historically relevant and interesting Rhode Island material, but space, resources, and a closely-defined collecting mission limit what we can accept for the permanent collection, or for the occasional loan. We don’t accept everything we are offered and a two-tiered committee structure makes the final decisions about possible donations. But you may have something that will truly assist in expanding our knowledge of history, and also keep your own name or your family’s names alive. So ask us:

Questions About the Collections
The collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society are extensive, and we welcome research use of the collections or inquiries about what they contain. Our collections staff members, however, are not numerous, and though we respond to research requests as soon as reasonably possible, given the many different tasks our staff perform, there is usually a wait involved for research requests directed to staff. Please be patient: we are eager to help.

For all research inquiries please contact