Heritage Harbor: Past and Future Plans
The Vision of Heritage Harbor
From the beginning, the purpose for creating a state history museum has been to extend Rhode Island’s historical narrative to modern times in order to include the experiences and contributions of all the state’s diverse ethnocultural and racial groups and to extol the dignity and merit of its people. One purpose of telling this history is to raise our self-esteem and pride of place in order to encourage wide public participation in the democratic process and to promote civic virtue.
This vision originated in the Ethnic Heritage Program of the Rhode Island Bicentennial Commission (ri76), the official state agency that conducted Rhode Island’s observance of state and American Independence during the mid-1970s. The ethnic heritage programs of ri76, devised by the commission’s volunteer chairman, Dr. Patrick T. Conley, were the “software” of this heritage vision, but those who embraced it also advocated “hardware” — an actual physical museum where our heritage could be permanently displayed and observed. To this end, a group led by Albert Klyberg, Robert J. McKenna, Robert Lynch, Mary Brennan, and Rachel Cunha created the Foundation for the Promotion of State Cultural Heritage on June 22, 1979.
The next major historical celebration — the 350th anniversary of Rhode Island’s founding — inspired these museum advocates to make such a facility an enduring legacy of the 350th commemoration. Their ardent support for this project arose from an awareness that Rhode Island was one of only four American states that lacked a state historical museum.
Mission of Heritage Harbor
Transforming the vision of an inclusive community looking-glass into a tangible state museum, where all our residents could see their image in the Rhode Island story, has been the goal of museum advocates since such a facility’s initial conceptualization and the formulation of its mission statement. A further goal of the proposed museum was to create a functioning historical collaborative where many heritage organizations could interact and work together, enjoying the economies of being under one roof. Such consolidation would allow them to coordinate program planning and promotion, to share discounts by bulk buying, and to join larger pools that would lessen the expense of fine arts insurance and other mundane operating costs that usually account for the bulk of small, non-profit budgets.