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News and Events

Tue, 28 May 2019 14:30:00 GMT

Secretary Gorbea Identifies Historic Treasures Most at Risk in "Temporary" State Archives

PROVIDENCE, RI – Today Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea released the results of a study commissioned by her office to evaluate the current space and storage conditions of the Rhode Island State Archives, as well as risks posed to the historic documents within.

The study was conducted by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), an independent laboratory that specializes in the conservation and preservation of paper- and film-based collections.

"We have some of the most important documents in American history in our collection," said Secretary Gorbea. "It's vitally important that we fully understand the risks and potential costs of storing these treasures in an environment that was clearly not designed to house them."

The State Archives has occupied a leased space at 337 Westminster Street in Providence since 1990. The building is an office space located in a geographic flood plain, and was meant to be a temporary location. The Archives is home to more than 10 million items in a variety of formats dating back to 1638.

The NEDCC team evaluated hundreds of volumes comprising thousands of records during their assessment of the Archives. The team noted the location, description, condition, digitization options and preservation needs of each item.

They found 35% of the collection was at "high priority" for conservation. This means that in its current state, the item is too fragile to be handled and damage will occur during its next use. Some of the most notable "high risk" items include:
• The Bill of Rights
• The Gaspee Commission
• Declaration of Independence, Stone Printing, 1823
• Battle of Rhode Island Map, General Sullivan's Expedition, 1778
• The Dorr Rebellion Map of Roads Leading to Chepachet, 1842

"Our outstanding Archives team is doing the best they can with what they have," said Secretary Gorbea. "But the bottom line is that archival facilities require highly specialized electrical systems, climate and light control, and security. Building a suitable, permanent Rhode Island State Archives has been a top priority of mine, and I will continue to advocate for its inclusion in our state budget. We owe it to future Rhode Islanders to preserve these historic documents and ensure that the public can access them."

For more information on the Rhode Island State Archives, including Secretary Gorbea's vision for a new, permanent facility, read the 2018 State Archives Annual Report.

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News Contact:

Senior Advisor &
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Nicole Lagace
401-222-2357
Email: nlagace@sos.ri.gov