The Rogers High School MUSE class of 2014 concluded their year with a site visit to the Rhode Island State House in Providence. Our trip to the Rhode Island Charter Museum, the home of the Charter which first granted religious freedom without fear of persecution to the citizens of the colony, was fascinating yet we experienced so much more!
Precious documents and objects that tell the story of the founding of the Colony and petition to the English King that led to the charter and its guarantee of a “lively experiment” of tolerance are exhibited along with the Charter itself in a state-of-the-art exhibition space within the marble walls of our state house.
Personal effects of Roger Williams, on loan from Newport Historical Society, and a wax seal that authenticated King Richard II’s signature are among the artifacts that are so delicate they must be housed in this museum with dedicated climate control, climate measurement devices and very low light levels to ensure they are protected from deterioration. State Librarian Tom Evans described the history of these objects in detail and also spoke to the preservation issues of such seminal artifacts. We brought our light meter to test the light levels in the gallery, which are specified by conservators, with Tom’s graciously encouragement. The levels were checked by students who confirmed readings below 4 foot-candles, the desired range of light.
The Charter itself is kept in a vault weighing several tons whose doors are opened every day for visitors and then locked in the evening. The parchment manuscript is further protected from light behind UV blocking plexiglass. We found that the light directed on it was 6 foot-candles, which being slightly brighter helped legibility of the hand script writing.
Mr. Evans also led us to the State Library and told us of its purpose, contents and use by legislators. The students were truly impressed by this older but reliable resource for housing and making accessible all the laws of the state. As teens, these students have not seen a library of this vintage and size before.
The Secretary of the Senate, Joe Brady, who guided us through the State House for the morning, showed us the House and Senate Chambers where the students had a crash civics course in the workings of the legislative bodies of their state. We were very thankful for his knowledge, and were further rewarded with a surprise visit from Rhode Island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis. The Rogers High Senior MUSE class was honored to discuss careers post high school with Secretary Mollis, and learn about his office’s extensive role, including that of preserving our state heritage. Museum Studies, meet Civic Studies!
Thank you to Secretary Mollis and Tom Evans, State Librarian. Our special gratitude goes to Secretary of the Senate Joe Brady for making this morning an memorable one for the Rogers High School students.