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Established in 1997, the RISD Archives identifies, collects, preserves, and provides access to records, publications, and artifacts of long-term historical, legal, administrative, and research value, which document the history and development of RISD programs, policies, and practices as well as the contributions of individuals and organizations associated with the School and Museum. The Archives is a unique and valuable resource for understanding and appreciating the significant role that RISD has played in teaching and advancing the disciplines of art, design, and art education--regionally, nationally, and worldwide--since its founding in 1877.  

In this issue of See Also, we highlight several of the Archives collections that are available to the RISD community for teaching and research, as well as our efforts to proactively capture RISD history not commonly found in administrative documents and publications, via oral history interviews. 

Andrew Martinez, Archivist and Doug Doe, Digital Archivist
For more than 20 years, the Fleet Library at RISD and the RISD Archives have sponsored an ongoing oral history project designed to record, through video interviews, the personal stories and reflections of RISD colleagues (faculty, administrators, trustees, and alumni) to augment RISD’s historical record. A sampling of these interviews can be found on RISD’s Digital Commons site, and we look forward to adding more oral histories soon.  

As we continue conducting oral histories, we are interested in extending our documentation to include staff, current students, visiting artists, and more alumni, with the goal of expanding the spectrum of RISD voices and documenting relevant and critical issues of the current moment, including equity and inclusion, health and wellness, sustainability, as well as the teaching and meaning of art and design. A great example of what we aspire to can be found at the Smithsonian’s Archives American Art Pandemic Oral History Project site. (See the May 28, 2020 edition of See Also to learn more about RISD Archives’ COVID-19 documentation project.)   

With these goals in mind, we would like to designate January 2021 as Oral History Month at RISD, and interview many of the administrators, faculty, and staff who have recently retired after being involved with RISD for 25 years or more. We welcome your suggestions for possible interview candidates, and would also like to hear from you if you would like to be involved in conducting interviews with our candidates online, via Zoom. We would supply you with interview questions and facilitate the scheduling and setup.  Contact Andrew Martinez or Margot Nishimura to indicate your interest, or if you have any suggestions or questions.

And, for historical examples of students’ views on contemporary issues, have a look at our digitized collection of RISD Student Newspapers on Digital Commons. Click here for a list of student publications, 1910-present, that are available in the Archives by appointment.

Image is of Alba Corrado, EFS Faculty being interviewed at her home in 2015

The Archives receives degree projects from several departments including Architecture, Graphic Design, Painting, Photography, and Film Animation Video. Projects may include photographs, slides, digital images, artistic statements, film, and video, plus we maintain databases for the Photography and FAV projects. All projects may be viewed in the Archives by appointment except for FAV film and video, which must be viewed by arrangement with the department. In addition to degree projects, the Archives collects masters’ theses for all departments, which can be researched via  Digital Commons and this Libguide. Please email us at with questions or for more information.

Image is by Lisa Plantenga-Berry, Photography 2004
The Archives holds several collections documenting RISD’s buildings and open spaces, including architectural drawings date to the construction of the Waterman Building in the 1890s. Most of the drawings are listed in a Libguide and documented in a database available in the Archives. Please contact the Archives for access to digitized drawings (except for the Museum of Art and the President’s House, which are closed for security reasons).

We also hold collections of photographs, real estate acquisition files, campus planning studies, and vertical files containing newspaper and magazine articles and other ephemera about the buildings. See also:
Providence : a citywide survey of historic resources
The civic and architectural development of Providence, 1636-1950

1935 architectural drawing of the RISD library in College Building
The Archives holds RISD Museum (officially "Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design") records from 1889-2020, including collections that document acquisitions, gifts, exhibitions, grants, educational and curatorial activities, and galleries. Photographs, negatives, and publications document the Museum’s exhibitions. Collection finding aids are posted on including:
Presidents’ and Directors’ correspondence, 1889-1966, bulk 1900-1948
Office of the Director Exhibition files, 1948-1983
L. Earle Rowe correspondence, 1912-1936
Rudolf Berliner and D. Graeme Keith records, 1913-1964, bulk 1946-1960
Heinrich Schwarz records, 1926-1970, bulk 1943-1953
Located in Groton, MA, the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, Gardening and Horticulture for Women opened in 1901 under the direction of Judith Eleanor Low. The first school of its kind for women, Lowthorpe incorporated in 1909 and changed its name to the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture in 1929. Lowthorpe offered summer programs with the Cambridge School of Domestic Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 1926-1927. Lowthorpe entered into a cooperative program with Simmons College, 1928-circa 1936, though the School did not grant degrees. A winter program was given at MIT during the 1930s. The School merged with RISD in 1945, eventually becoming the department of Landscape Architecture, and surviving primary resources -- including real estate records, course catalogues, other teaching materials, and library accession books -- are now part of the RISD Archives. 

Glass lantern slide from the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture archival collection
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