337 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 222-2353
Fax: (401) 222-3199
Open to the public
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The State Archives and Public Records Administration is charged with preserving and maintaining the permanent records of state government (RIGL § 42-8.1 and 38-3). The State Archives is the official custodian and trustee for the state of public records of permanent, historical and legal value. The Public Records Administration is charged with overseeing records management functions within state government (RIGL § 38-1 and 38-3).
State Archives and Public Records Administration Agency History Timeline
1647 – from The Proceedings of the First General Assembly of “The Incorporation of Providence Plantations,” and The Code of Laws adopted by That Assembly in 1647 (Staples), 1847) – …that the general recorder’s office to keep a copy of all the records or acts of the General Assembly, general and particular courts of judicature, rolls of the freemen of the Colony, records, evidences, sales and bargains of land, wills and testaments of the testor, and orders of the townsmen touching the intestate, records of the limits and bounds of towns, their highways, driftways, commons and fencings, privileges and liberties.
1663 – “An Act Regulating the Election of General Officers” first mentions the office of the “General Recorder” the predecessor to the Office of the Secretary of State.
1853 – State wide registration of vital records begins.
1857 – January Session. Resolution for the better arrangement and preservation of the Public Archives. “Resolved that the Secretary of State be authorized to classify and arrange, or cause the same to be arranged under his direct supervision, in order to their better preservation and convenience for reference, the various charters, letters, petitions, reports, military-rolls, survey of turnpikes, and all other public documents now preserved in manuscript in his office, and that the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars be appropriated toward defraying the expenses of the same. Resolved, that when the public documents referred to are arranged to the satisfaction of the secretary of state in chronological order, he cause the same to be bound in suitable volumes.”
1860 – Joint Select Committee Upon the Public Archives appointed to examine the public documents in the office of the Secretary of State
1867 – Chapter 676. - An Act to Preserve the Public Records – Section 1. It shall be the duty of every person who shall hold, or shall have held a public office in this state, to deliver to his successor in office, or if there be no successor, to the secretary of state, all records, books, writings, letters and documents kept or received by him in the transaction of his official business.
1893 – Report by Amos Perry, Secretary and Librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society entitled The Town Records of Rhode Island.
1896 – First State Records Commissioner appointed (R. Hammett Tilley). Care and preservation of local (municipal) records first addressed by state authorities.
1898 – First Annual Report of the State Record Commissioner.
1904 – Report on the Archives of Rhode Island by Clarence Brigham (librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society).
1910 – Functions of the State Records Commissioner combined with those of the State Librarian (1910 – PL- 645).
1911 – Fireproof receptacles for the records of the cities and towns required.
1936 - Historical Records Survey Program started under the Works Progress Administration and sponsored by the Rhode Island State Library.
1944 – PL- 1487 a legislative committee on Accounts and Records was established and composed of the chairman of the Finance committees of the Senate and the House and the Director of Finance, and empowered it to approve or disapprove requests for the disposal of records.
1951 – PL 2729 – Established the Department of Administration under which a Division of Methods, Research and Office Services was created to exercise authority over records management. (Posner, 1964, p. 243).
1952 – Records Management program put into operation and State Records Center established, first retention schedules for state agencies drafted.
1957 – PL-21 – An Act Authorizing Transfer of Court Records to the State Records Center.
1960 – Microfilming program added to services of the Records Management Program.
1964 – Posner, Ernst American State Archives (Rhode Island p. 243).
1973 – State Documents Project Committee formed.
1974 – “Report to the Ad Hoc Committee to study the Documents Depository and Distribution System for Rhode Island Libraries” – Roger H. McDonough. This study recommended that the operations of the State Record Center be placed under the administration of the State Archives. Also suggests that the State Library, Archives and Records Center merge with the Department of State Library (DSLS now OLIS) Services to form a strong centralized agency with combined staff and resources (p.11).
1975 – RI Records and the RI Documents Depository System: Study & Recommendations – a study undertaken for the Consortium of Rhode Island Academic and Research Libraries – This study recommended that the State Archives, State Library and State Records Center be joined into a single administrative agency within the Office of the Secretary of State in order to better coordinate functions and responsibilities in the management of state records and documents.
1976 – Executive Order No. 31 creates the Rhode Island Historical Records Advisory Board http://sos.ri.gov/rihrab/.
1979 – PL 202 – “Access to Public Records Act” established.
1979-1981 – Rhode Island Historical Records Survey, Dr. Zofia Sywak, Director, Governor’s Office.
1981 – PL 353 - General Assembly enacted “The Public Records Administration Act.” (GL § 38-3) – which also established the Public Records Advisory Commission.
1983 – Public Records Advisory Council did a survey of municipal clerks’ records
1983-1985 – Records Assessment Grant – Public Records Advisory Survey –
1985 – The R.I. Public Records Administration is established by legislation as a division of the Department of Administration. The division oversees the operation of the State Records Center.
1985 – November – RI Records Assessment Report, 1984-1985, David C. Maslyn – This report, published by the R.I. Historical Records Advisory Board, included a series of 115 recommendations for the improvement of state record keeping practices.
1986 - “Priority Actions Required for the Design and Implementation of the Rhode Island Public Records Administration Program.” by Edward N. Johnson CRM (Consultant), Information & Records Engineering, Inc., Tallahassee, Fl. May 29, 1986
1987 – The NHPRC awards a two-year grant of $114,000 to the Office of the Secretary of State for the establishment of the State Archives. The program runs (with an extension) until June 30, 1991.
1987 – First Public Records Administrator appointed (Albin Wagner)
1987 – Microfilm Standards for state and local records adopted by the Public Records Advisory Council (See Rhode Island Administrative Code REC – 1 – 87) effective January 1, 1988. State Records Manual published.
1988 – A central micro graphics unit is established b the Public Records Administration at the Women’s Correctional Facility. In 1991, the program becomes a unit within the operations of the Prison Industries Program
1989 – PL 341 – “State Archives and Historical Records Act.” (GL § 42-8.1-1 to 42-8.1-19). The State Archives is created and the position of State Archivist is also established.
1989 – June 8, fire at State Records Center on Park Street in Providence
1989 – Survey of city and town records begins per NHPRC grant 88-0077
1989-1990 – NHPRC Grant #88-077 – purpose was to establish a professional state archival program; and to document/identify archival material located in the State Records Center, in state agency offices, in the cities and towns and state records in private historical repositories.
1990 – The State Archives moves from it quarters in the basement of the State House to 337 Westminster (May 29-30)
1990 – First professional archivist appointed as State Archivist (Timothy A. Slavin)
1991 – June – The Public Records Administration program is merged with the State Archives.
1991 - publication of Local Government Records in Rhode Island: A Survey and Summary financed by a NHPRC grant.
1992 – NHPRC grant awarded to implement the Rhode Island Local Government Records Program. Begins in May
1993 –PL 385 §3. – Rhode Island Historical Records Trust Fund established (GL §42-8.1-20)
1993 – September – Bricks and Mortar for the Mind: Statewide Preservation Plan for Rhode Island is published.
1999 – November NHPRC grant awarded to Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State, Division of Archives and Public Records Administration, Providence, RI: A two-year grant of $49,794 for a project to develop an electronic records program development model and starter’s manual for small state archival programs.
2003 - The Administrative Records Division (formerly part of the Division of Civics and Public Information in the Office of the Secretary of State) becomes a program within the State Archives Division.