WPRI 12: Flooding damages 8,000 photos at Newport Historical Society

January 10, 2024


By: Kate Wilkinson, WPRI 12

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Historians discovered three inches of flooding in the basement of the Newport Historical Society on Wednesday, after a powerful rain storm came through.

Executive Director Rebecca Bertrand said she received the call from her coworker before she came in and knew they would have to act quickly.

“It’s really difficult because this is what we’re here for,” Bertrand said.

According to Bertrand, they stored everything from photos over the years to the Newport Daily News archives, capturing the history of the city.

“It seems like it hit a little bit of every decade,” she added. “Some of these photographs are from the folk and jazz festival, but it’s also like your grandma when she was in the spelling bee.”

Bertrand said the historical society has never dealt with flooding before, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t prepared. Putting their disaster plan to work, employees were assigned different tasks around the building, keeping photos organized and bringing them to nearby community groups to hang them on clotheslines to dry out.

Despite the damage, Bertrand said nothing will be lost, adding that this is a reminder of the importance of digitizing the rest of their collection.

“Everything is repairable and everything can be reproduced,” Bertrand said. “So any of the photo prints that were done, they can all be remade based on those negatives.”

The Newport Historical Society will remain open while they continue to dry out pieces of their collection.

Visit their website to learn more or make a donation.

To view this story online, visit https://www.wpri.com/target-12/flooding-damages-8000-photos-at-newport-historical-society/