Archives in the Time of COVID-19

Hello, loyal blog readers. We wish that, right now, we were posting under normal circumstances to impendingly welcome you back into our newly-renovated library and enthusing about a soon-to-open exhibition, but alas, that’s not the case given the current COVID-19 situation in the U.S. However, we do have an update on library services and Special Collections access during our closure, as well as some information about where we left off our reopening preparations (with photos near the bottom of this post):

First, as you likely know, Providence Public Library has wisely postponed the date when we will re-open to the public; if you didn’t receive the library’s email announcement, you can find it here. You can also check our website for updates about virtual library services and announcements about our rescheduled opening. (To answer your most pressing questions: no, you don’t need to return your books right now, nor will they incur overdue fines until we re-open; and yes, you can apply for a temporary library card online if you don’t have one and want to access the library’s e-books and other digital services.)

Second, all members of our Special Collections staff are currently working from home. That means that we’re available by email but not by phone, and we don’t have access to our physical collections at the moment. We do have a number of virtual services available:

  • First, please avail yourselves of the plethora of images available through ProvLibDigital. They’re free to download, and could make great additions to online curricula, research projects, or creative projects.
  • We can offer some virtual instruction or reference services: do you want us to offer an online session for your class on how to do primary source research? Have questions about your genealogy research? Need some ideas for your history class? Please get in touch; we’d love to work with you.
  • We’re working to put together additional resources that will be available through our website, such as subject guides to common research topics, ideas for teachers and professors to integrate primary sources and historical materials into their virtual curricula, and information about preserving family history. Stay tuned!

Now, for some pictures and construction/ exhibit updates:

Up until mid-March, we were frantically preparing for the library’s grand re-opening. While construction continued outside our new office doors, we received new furniture for our Special Collections Reading Room, including a bank of lockers for researchers’ personal belongings, new tables and chairs, and an official-looking desk for the librarian monitoring the room. We don’t have pictures to share just yet, so you can act very surprised when you finally sit in our new chairs.

We also got VERY exciting new cases for our VERY exciting new exhibition gallery. The cases were manufactured in Germany and journeyed across the Atlantic on a cargo ship. They arrived via delivery truck on a rainy day in wooden packing crates, having crossed the miles relatively unscathed.

(Don’t worry, we got a replacement for this single broken glass shelf.)

Look at the cool Drop (N) Tell Impact Indicator on the side of the shipping crate that tattles on laissez-faire crate handlers:

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Here are a few of the cases set up in the new gallery:

Exhibit gallery

In early March, we started building custom book supports for our annual exhibition and program series. Here are some poorly-lit pictures of Angela doing math, and of freshly-made supports inside our new cases.

We’re still planning to have the exhibit completed whenever the library re-opens to the public; in the meantime, keep an eye here and on our other social media for posts highlighting Special Collections materials, and even a few exhibit sneak-peeks.

We sincerely hope you’re all staying safe and healthy and feeling supported and connected to one another.

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