Rhode Island LGBTQ+ Community Archive

A home for the histories of RI's LGBTQ+ communities where all can learn, reflect and engage.

RI LGBTQ+ Community Archive at PPL is a community archives initiative to collect and provide access to the current and past stories of LGBTQ+ people in Rhode Island. We are focused on ensuring the preservation of materials chronicling the social, cultural & political history of RI LGBTQ+ people and organizations. 

We strive to develop collections & resources that reflect the full range of the lived experiences of Rhode Island's LGBTQ+ communities. We especially aim to reflect key perspectives on the issues and experiences of those who have been historically marginalized in mainstream LGBTQ+ movements including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, disabled, trans and gender non-binary, economically disenfranchised, and otherwise marginalized people. 

We do this by: 

  • Collecting, preserving & providing access to publications, archival materials, oral histories & ephemera that document Rhode Island LGBTQ+ history.
  • Offering free consulting services for records management and preservation to individuals, activists and organizations within the community.
  • Maintaining a research guide to & working with other related local historical collections and community resources for researchers. 

Queer StoRIes Project

The RI LGBTQ+ Community Archives at Providence Public Library is collecting oral histories about LGBTQ+ life in Rhode Island as told by those who lived it.

Listen to past interviews online.

Nominate somebody to be interviewed

Let us know whose story needs to be told! Nominate yourself or somebody else to be included in our oral history project. We will follow up with them about participating in our Queer StoRIes oral history project.

Community Advisory Board

We are guided in this work through deep collaboration with an Advisory Board that is composed of members from within the Rhode Island LGBTQ+ community and PPL Collections staff who provide guidance in crucial decision-making on issues related to collecting, access and outreach. 

  • Tai Bacani, SAGE RI, Actress & RI, MA Realtor
  • Rodney Davis, President of RI Pride
  • Jodi Glass, Au.D & Community Activist
  • Jesús Hernandez, Assistant Director of Engaged Scholarship, Swearer Center, Brown University
  • Bret Jacob, Providence LGBTQIA+ Liaison and Deputy Director of Policy
  • Matthew Lawrence, Arts writer & event curator
  • Jazz Lee Johnson, Artist, Editor, Curator and Scholar
  • Joe Pari, Co-founder & Executive Director of TEN31 Productions
  • Virginia Thomas, Assistant Professor of Art History and Women's and Gender Studies at Providence College
  • Volta Tran, Trans Health Education and Policy Specialist at Thundermist Health Center
  • Mikel Wadewitz, Director of Partnerships at Project Weber/RENEW


We are actively collecting materials to document LGBTQ+ people in Rhode Island.

A selection of our current collections includes:


Past Events

Queer Voices of Rhode Island: Oral Histories

On June 4, 2020 PPL kicked off Pride Month and its Providence LGBTQ+ history collecting initiative with Queer Voices of Rhode Island - an event celebrating the donation of an oral history collection. During Spring 2020, Virginia Thomas and the students in her “Queering Oral Histories” class at Brown University collected oral histories of LGBTQ+ activists in Providence with the support of a grant from the RI Council for the Humanities.

View clips of the interviews on the StoryMap

Interested in conducting your own oral history interviews and submitting them to the Queer Voices of R.I. project?  Download "The Space Between The Stars" zine to learn more!

"SCANDALOUS CONDUCT/NEWPORT 1919: The Enigmatic Providence Journal Editor Who Ignited the Newport Naval Sex Scandal"

As editor of the Providence Journal a century ago, John Rathom almost singlehandedly took a homophobic Navy entrapment scheme and turned it into a national scandal, one which brought homosexual “scandalous conduct” into daily newspapers and almost derailed the career of a future president. This talk looked at this colorful huckster and asked what it means when justice prevails but for all the wrong reasons.

This program was hosted by PPL on May 21, 2020 and was the first program in Scandalous Conduct/Newport 1919, a site-specific installation and series of public programs related to the Newport Sex Scandal, a largely forgotten but hugely important moment in the history of LGBTQ+ rights. The series was created by artists / curators Matthew Lawrence and Jason Tranchida. For more information on the whole project, visit scandalousconduct.com.


Kate Wells

Curator of Rhode Island Collections
Phone: 401-455-8028
Email: kwells@provlib.org