PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s historical treasures are moving to a new location this summer, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea announced Tuesday.
The new facility for the Rhode Island State Archives will allow for major upgrades to the preservation and protection of the archives, which date back to 1638.
The archives have occupied a leased office space at 337 Westminster Street in Providence since 1990, which is located in a flood plain and gave great concern to Gorbea. The building reportedly had a series of sump pumps working around the clock, constantly in battle with rising water.
The location change comes with the lease not being renewed by the landlord.
“The Rhode Island State Archives are home to some of the most important documents in our country’s history, including an original signed copy of the Declaration of Independence and one of 13 original copies of the Bill of Rights,” Gorbea said. “The improved conditions at the Archives’ new location will ensure that these priceless pieces of history are preserved for future generations.”
The new location at 33 Broad Street in Providence was selected through the public bidding process, as required by law. It is said to offer several improvements to the previous location, including a dedicated climate-controlled vault, modern research and conference space for the public, additional exhibition and display space and enhanced building security.
“We are very pleased about the upcoming move of the Rhode Island State Archives offices and collections to a location that will ensure a greater degree of preservation, access, and security,” Executive Director of the National Council of State Archivists Barbara Teague said.
The 10-year lease on the new location begins in August. The collections will be packed and moved to the new location throughout July by William B. Meyer, Inc., a company that specializes in archival relocation.
In 2019, Gorbea said Rhode Island was the only state in the country without a permanent archive and divulged her plan to create a 52,000 square-foot permanent facility for the archives.
Due to COVID-19, state archive staff will continue to provide virtual reference via phone and email. The archives will begin welcoming researchers in a limited, appointment only capacity in the fall.