Appointments & Access

Access Policy

The collections of the Newport Historical Society are held as a public trust for the benefit of present and future generations. As stewards of the collection, the NHS is responsible for properly protecting, preserving, maintaining and providing access to these collections. With some exceptions and restrictions, it is our policy that the collections will be available for publication, exhibition, interpretation and education, research, reproductions and derivative work.

We make our collections accessible to the general public to the greatest extent possible through both in-person research appointments and remote research services.  The Richard I. Burnham Resource Center is by appointment only: Appointments must be made in advance. 

Appointments are scheduled Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm.

For more information please email or call 401-846-0813, ext. 190. NHS is not obligated to assist inquiries that involve excessive time or cost to the institution, and all services are contingent upon the latest R.I health guidance, staff availability and the physical condition of the collection materials requested. Staff respond to inquiries in the order in which they are received. Historical Society members are given priority in making appointments for visits. Fees and policies are described below.

Have a quick question?

Our ready reference policy refers to requests made via phone, email or mail that do not require a visit to the Newport Historical Society Research Library and Resource Center. Staff will answer specific questions about the history of Newport county and resources in our collection without charging a fee. These are questions that can typically be answered with 30 minutes or less of staff research. Beyond that time, requests will be charged according to the fee schedule below.

Ready reference requests do not encompass surveys of collections or original research using collections materials. To have staff conduct original research, we charge a fee of $75/hour. All service times are from the time in which payment for service is received, if payment is required.

Examples of ready reference questions include:

  • During what years did the British army occupy Newport during the American Revolution?
  • Who headlined the Newport Folk Festival in 1976?
  • Do you have a copy of my grandfather’s obituary? His name was John Smith and he died in 1980.
  • Do you have Newport town records from the year 1776?


Examples of paid research requests include:

  • What were the cultural and socioeconomic impacts of the British occupation during the American Revolution on the Newport community?
  • What role has the Newport Folk Festival played in the national folk music scene from its inception up to present day?
  • Do you have any information about my great, great grandparents?
  • Can you give me an overview of the contents of Abraham Redwood’s account books?


For more information on research, visit our Research Services page, or email


Research Fees

NHS Members* Students* RI Residents* Non-Members
Ready Reference Question Free Free Free Free
Research Library Appointment**
(secondary resources & genealogy)
Free appointment Free appointment Free appointment $5 / hour
Special Collections Appointment**
(Archival, Photograph & Object Collections)
$5 / hour $20 / day $10 / hour $10 / hour
Staff Research, Assistance & Handling Service $50 / hour $60 / hour $75 / hour $75 / hour
Genealogy Service $50 / hour $60 / hour $75 / hour $75 / hour
Staff Photography*** $50 / hour $60 / hour $75 / hour $75 / hour

*NHS membership card, RI or student identification required.

**On-site research visits.

***This fee will be charged if a work must be retrieved from storage or installation, or if an object from the Photo Archive requires more complicated photography preparation. For more information, visit our Photography, Reproductions & Image Use page.

Postage will be added to fees when necessary.



All researchers are required to fill out a Researcher Registration Form before conducting research at the NHS Research Library and Resource Center. Registration forms assist staff in identifying resources in the collection that may be applicable to research topics. Signed forms also serve as an acknowledgement that researchers have reviewed our research policies and agreed to adhere to those policies while working at the Newport Historical Society. The Newport Historical Society reserves the right to discontinue service to any and all patrons that violate these policies.


Hugh D. Auchincloss III Reading Room Rules

All visitors who wish to utilize collections at the NHS must complete a Researcher Registration Form and adhere to the following rules in the Reading Room and Research Library:

Patron Belongings

  • The NHS reserves the right to decline use of its facilities to any person.
  • Patrons must leave all belongings in designated lockers.
  • No jackets, coats or bags are permitted in research spaces; All bags, including purses, handbags, backpacks and laptop cases must be stored prior to using materials.
  • Notebooks, folders and other loose papers are not permitted, notepads and pencils will be provided. Absolutely no ink pens allowed.
  • Personal laptops and tablets are permitted for note-taking, but cases must be stored with other personal belongings.
  • Cameras and mobile phones are permitted but monitored; see the Personal Photography Policy and Agreement for requirements and conditions.
  • Scanners, camera stands and lighting equipment are not permitted. Reproductions, digital scans and copies are available, please visit our Reproductions page for more information.
  • Any items that are deemed by staff to be harmful to collections, patrons or personnel are not permitted in the resource center.
  • No food or drink is permitted in research spaces; this includes gum, candy, water and cough drops. Water bottles and travels mugs are not permitted and must be stored with other personal belongings.
  • All personal items brought into research spaces are subject to staff inspection on exit.
  • Patrons must adhere to NHS pandemic regulations (subject to change), including temperature checks, mask wearing and hand washing.


Handling Materials

  • Patrons must wash hands before handling collections.
  • Maintaining the original order of the collection is essential to our ability to retrieve artifacts. Please examine one folder at a time and keep materials in order.
  • All collections are non-circulating. All materials must be viewed in the Reading Room or Research Library.
  • Items must be handled with care, and pages turned slowly.
  • Items must remain flat on the table while being viewed.
  • Please refrain from applying pressure when viewing manuscripts and special collections; note taking on the surface of the materials and tracing are prohibited.
  • Items must remain in their protective enclosures. Patrons wishing to view items outside of their enclosures must ask for staff assistance.
  • Staff may request that you wear white cotton gloves to limit deterioration of original materials. Gloves will be provided.
  • All items must be returned to staff. Please do not re-shelve materials.

Contact us

For research inquiries and appointments, please email or call 401-846-0813, ext. 190