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Nine nonprofits win grants to bring history to life
By Chris Barnett / June 9, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...
Nine nonprofit organizations will receive grants to document everything from local African American history to the rich stories of the state’s immigrant communities. The funding is through the Archive, Document, Display and Disseminate (ADDD) Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

“By providing the resources to bolster libraries and other civic, cultural and literacy-focused organizations, we can enlarge their position as community centers that encourage dialogue around important topics,” said philanthropist Herman Rose, who created the ADDD fund in 1986. Over the years, it has awarded nearly $400,000 in grants.

The primary goals are to increase public access to information through preserving and promoting print, digital or other material and to provide challenge grants for fundraising campaigns for the acquisition of equipment, special collections and publications among other material.

The Bristol Historical and Preservation Society received $1,500 to continue cataloguing its early collections, including original documentation of the Africa-to-America slave trade.

“Interest in the town continues to be strong and people want knowledge of both where they live and the town in general. Academic researchers are also interested and their work adds considerable value to our knowledge of the collections,” said Catherine Zipf, executive director.

The work includes digitizing photos and documents to make the material accessible on-line.

“The ultimate goal is a database that appropriately catalogues the important artifacts in our collections to the standards of best practice, one that best benefits our community of users. We hold a collection that is nationally significant and we wish to cherish and present that to the widest audience possible,” she said.

The Center for Southeast Asians received $1,473 to support the publication of "Through the Bamboo Forest: Stories of Southeast Asian Refugees in America,” which documents the experience of Rhode Island’s Southeast Asian refugee community.

The book will be a collection of personal, vintage photographs and documents chronicling the journeys of refugees from the border camps in Thailand to their new lives in Rhode Island from 1970 to 1990.

“Members of our community have allowed us to borrow images that are catalysts for the stories of their journey, the flight from Southeast Asia, often under great duress, and the challenges they faced trying to assimilate into an urban, American lifestyle,” Channavy Chhay, executive director.

The vintage photographs will be accompanied by the personal stories of the participants.

“Our purpose is to build a visual archive, accompanied by narrative text, and then to utilize that archive in making this community visible, both to itself and to others,” she said.

Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island
received $1,800 to convert its oral history project, “My Story, Our Community,” into a traveling exhibit that will be staged in every Rhode Island city and town.

“There is a need to bring this message of welcoming and inclusivity to every corner of Rhode Island. It is absolutely necessary to take these stories outside the urban core in order to bridge the divide between native and foreign-born residents,” said Brandon Lozeau, community relations manager.

The Greenville Public Library received $525 to purchase equipment that will make it easier for patrons to access the digitized archives of the former Smithfield Observer newspaper and the Mary Mowry Collection.

“These collections are vital resources for patrons looking to learn more about their family history or reconnect with the past,” said Cassie Patterson, assistant library director.

“Because the Observer archive spans three generations, it has become a historical database of key local events and a way to trace family history, in addition to offering a native lens on events of historical significance,” she said.

“The Mary Mowry Collection contains years of her research, including notes, family trees, deeds, news clippings and other ephemera. These documents trace prominent Smithfield families back to the founding days of our town,” Patterson explained.

The Providence Athenaeum received $2,800 to create a digital archive of its fine arts collection in order to increase public access to historic artwork and encourage scholarly research.

“The digital archive will integrate research essays and high resolution digital images for as many as 100 pieces in our collection,” said Matt Burriesci, executive director. “It will make the collection much more accessible to students, artists, scholars and the general public.”

The Providence Preservation Society received $1,700 to create a companion website to supplement the reprinting of its popular 2003 publication, “PPS Guide to Providence Architecture.”

The website will present the guidebook content using rich images and text, as well as incorporating Google Maps.

“This innovative project is in line with our institutional goals to educate the community, including new audiences, about historic resources in Providence. It will create an easily accessible database of resources that conveys the history of Providence’s built-environment to visitors, residents and researchers alike,” said Sarah Santos, director of advancement.

“We’ll reach new and expanded audiences to promote tourism. Providence’s historic fabric is both a cultural and economic asset enjoyed by residents and visitors alike,” she said.

The South Kingstown Land Trust received $1,750 to create informational kiosks at the foot of the Biscuit City Trail in Kingston, the DuVal Hiking Trail in Perryville, the Thewlis Woods Trail in Wakefield, the Yawgoo Pond Trail in West Kingston and the Weeden Farm Trail in Matunuck.

“Thousands of hikers and visitors use our trail systems on a yearly basis. The markers will provide location of trails and special features of the trail systems, natural history and cultural history of the sites, as well as rules, hours of admittance and notices of events and activities,” said Clarkson Collins, land management director.

Over the years, the Land Trust has preserved nearly 2,700 acres of open land and created six publicly accessible hiking trails.

“Our trails offer diverse environments, including open fields, ponds and streams, woodlands, historic sites, interesting geological features and wildlife habitats. These informational kiosks will greatly enhance the hiking experience,” said Collins.

The Southside Community Land Trust received $2,800 to promote its farm and garden plots, children and youth programs, health education and where Central Falls and Pawtucket residents can find affordable, healthy food.

“Our high school youth staff are going door-to-door conducting outreach in English and Spanish about local farmers markets and how to sign up for community garden plots,” said Jenny Boone, grants and outreach manager. "We'll support new gardeners with free workshops and agricultural resources."

The community garden and farm plots are behind the Galego Court apartments in Pawtucket and in the future Garfield Park Community Garden in Central Falls. Families and young children will also learning about healthy food and how to grow their own produce in small, urban spaces.

Stages of Freedom received $1,799 to support the printing of 10,000 copies of “On the Rhode to Freedom: Black Historic Sites in Rhode Island,” a self-guided, statewide tour of upwards of 55 historic sites related to state's African American history, people and events.

This free booklet will contain information on churches, residences, businesses, historical markers, public sculpture and memorials where something significant occurred, such as the former Black neighborhoods of Snowtown and Hardscrabble in Providence.

“Few, if any, Rhode Island tour booklets over the years have referenced more than one or two Black sites, so a project of this scope and range is significant, necessary and well overdue,” said Ray Rickman, who chairs Stages of Freedom.

The brochure is intended to be a user-friendly guide for tourists, residents, students, scholars, historical societies and libraries.

“This will bring awareness to the rich, mostly overlooked, or invisible African American history within our midst, to encourage self-guided tours and to create a dialogue about the importance of our shared history,” he said.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Foundation awarded a record $45 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.
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