January 21, 2022

Rhode Island: Millions of State Historical Records Stored In Flood-Prone Basement


Some of Rhode Island’s most important and historic records are just a power outage away from damage and destruction.

Rhode Island is the only state in the nation that does not have a permanent location for their state archives, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The leased office space that currently houses centuries of state law, historic blue prints, birth and death records, even the state’s copy of the Bill of Rights, are located in a building that lies in a floodplain.


Target 12 review of payments reveals the state pays $248,000 a year in rent to Paolino Properties, a real estate company owned by former Providence Mayor Jospeh Paolino. The archives were moved to the Providence location from the State House in 1990.

In all the state has paid $5.4 million in rent since that time.

The building has one climate-controlled vault on the first floor for some of the state’s most valuable assets – including a document signed by Roger Williams from 1661 – but the vast majority of records must be stored in a basement where six sump pumps are working around the clock to hold off rising water.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said the situation has led to some sleepless nights.

Read the Complete Report

See Also: State officials tried, and failed, to fix archives a decade ago (via WPRI-TV)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.