Friday, January 6, 2012

Little Rhody's Manuscript Collections

The most fabulous new site that I've been using lately for my research is RIAMCO, The Rhode Island Archives and Manuscript Collections Online ( This website allows you to search several manuscript collections at repositories all over RI with one website. The website is sponsored by a consortium of 10 members including Brown University, Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Historical Society and others.

It's a great way to search for unique items related to the history of RI and our families from one search engine, rather than going to search each one independently. Many universities and colleges have fabulous special collections that are available for research, and a search of those resources should be included in any "reasonably exhaustive" search for information. They may not be well publicized, but you never know what unique gems you may discover.

There are some caveats to using RIAMCO that I've discovered already. Not everything that the participating members have in their collections "pops up" when you do a search. And not all the RI repositories that have unique collections are represented. For example, while the RI State Archives has a variety of fabulous and unique manuscript collections (particularly those relating to Narragansett tribal affairs), they may not all show up in your search. The information that you get out is only what the consortium members have added to the database. Additionally, there are some possible repositories that we can think of that aren't represented such as Rhode Island College, and the West Warwick Public Library (they have a really fabulous photograph collection!) But, I think what it does is that it reminds us that there are a number of special collections that deserve attention in our family history research, and that can provide in-depth and unique materials that can make our work come alive.

Check them out, and encourage any repositories you use that aren't members already to join the Consortium! By using these resources, we are showing the value these materials have, and why they should continue to be preserved!