Strengthening Rhode Island’s Civic Pride Through Education

By Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea

Over the course of nearly four centuries, Rhode Island has played a critical role in the formation of our country and shaping the American experience. From serving as a global beacon for religious freedom and tolerance to ushering in the American Industrial Revolution, we have a lot to be proud of as Rhode Islanders. It’s important that we celebrate, educate and capitalize our state’s history to boost civic pride and support the growth of Rhode Island’s tourism sector.

As Secretary of State, I am dedicated to empowering and engaging all Rhode Islanders. An important part of this goal is to build and strengthen Rhode Island civic pride. The Rhode Island State Archives, a division of the Department of State, is the bridge that connects our state’s rich history to the present day. The State Archives also oversees the preservation of our state government documents, which makes transparent government possible.

The State Archives is home to millions of historically significant documents, images and past records dating back to 1638. Our State Archives has the potential to make Rhode Island a national leader in U.S. archives and to help create valuable opportunities in civics education and tourism. It is located at   337 Westminster Street in downtown Providence and offers two hours of free validated parking as a way to encourage Rhode Islanders to visit our treasures in person.

We have already started to increase Rhode Islanders’ engagement with the State Archives through a combination of outreach, education and improved accessibility. In February, the State Archives hosted an exhibit of documents and materials that told the fascinating story of Rhode Island’s contributions during the Civil War. I was honored to host a roundtable discussion at the State Archives on the role that African Americans played in the formation of the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery regiment during the war. The discussion included Civil War scholars, local high school students and leaders from the state’s African American community.

This month, we are offering a new exhibit titled “Historic Odds, Ends and Other Curiosities” that runs through the end of August. The exhibit provides the public a unique opportunity to view remarkable and curious items spanning hundreds of years of our state’s history. These items range from examples of colonial money, both authentic and counterfeit, to records of piracy trials, drawings of the Independent Woman, and even H.P. Lovecraft’s death certificate.

Looking forward, we plan to expand the State Archives’ role as an educational resource to increase access and opportunities for Rhode Islanders to reconnect with our state’s wonderful history. The Department of State is developing interactive educational tools and will also be expanding its virtual exhibit collections to ensure that everyone can learn about Rhode Island history.

I look forward to providing these opportunities for all Rhode Islanders to experience and enjoy the State Archives. Ensuring greater access to our State Archives can help make civic education relevant, contribute to local tourism and bolster Rhode Island state pride.

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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