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Rhode Island Historical Society Awarded $99,400 Grant for Graphics Inventory Project

By Karen Eberhart, Special Collections Curator
From a hand-drawn map of Block Island created in 1661 to footage of Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s first mayoral campaign in 1974, the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) holds the world’s largest collection of audio and visual materials documenting to the history of Rhode Island.  In this blog on May 14, 2009 Jim DaMico reported on the progress of the Graphics Collection inventory project dedicated to uncovering all the riches within the collection.  We are now pleased to announce the continuation of that project thanks to a $99,400 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  With this funding, the RIHS can complete the final 3 years of the 5.5 year project to inventory all of our audiovisual materials.
The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums and competition for the grants is always steep.  The RIHS was one of 154 grant recipients of out of a total of 371 applicants to the Museums for America grant program this year.
During the inventory, each item is examined and fundamental information collected in a database.  In the near term, that information will, for the first time, make a large portion of the Graphics division accessible to the public through the RIHS online public catalog, NETOP.  The inventory will also generate statistics that will be indispensible for prioritizing future work and maximizing staff efficiency for years into the future.
Material to be inventoried includes:

  • Examples of early color photography such as an autochrome-process glass plate,  circa 1910.
  • 1950s recordings on the once-common Dictaphone belts.
  • Family photos from the 1840s to the 2000s providing rich documentation of life in Rhode Island.
  • Architectural drawings of public buildings as well as of modest single family homes, all representative of the building styles and architectural history of the state.

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