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Rhode Island Historical Society Endowment Fund
By Jean Cohoon / September 8, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...
The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) boasts some impressive numbers: 25,000 visitors annually, 160,000 users of its free online resources, 100,000 volumes in its collections, and an almost unimaginable nine million feet of film!

But the real take-away from a conversation with C. Morgan Grefe, RIHS executive director, and James Loring, chair of its board of trustees, is how this nearly 200-year-old organization has responded to and changed with the times.

“We’re proud we’re a growing and evolving organization,” Morgan explains of the Society’s efforts to digitize collections (like its extensive Roger Williams materials) and make them free and accessible, and becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2015.

“History has a profound ability to teach empathy, to illustrate things like why democracy matters and the importance of the separation of church and state. Concepts that changed the course of human endeavor happened here. No place can tell these stories better than Rhode Island,” Morgan believes.

“From a board perspective, we have the challenge of enabling the Society to fulfill its mission (‘remembering, interpreting, honoring, and sharing Rhode Island’s past to enrich the present and inspire the future’) and figuring out how history fits into everyone’s life. There’s a lot of strategic thinking about how to engage with the community,” Jim states.

Two of the Society’s many initiatives are strengthening their sector and creating educational opportunities. Its Rhode Island History Online Directory Initiative (RHODI) helps and collaborates with 200-plus partner organizations. Its Anchor School Program serves one school district annually (at no cost), providing teachers with professional development and curriculum support, along with in-class and museum-based programs for students. Additional programs and tours are open to the public at four of the Society’s properties: the John Brown House Museum, Aldrich House, and the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center in Providence; and the Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket.

Of their decision to partner with the Foundation on this endowment, Jim says, “The Foundation has a track record of solid financial management,” with Morgan adding, “This is an important place for us to be.”
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