YMCA of Greater Providence Archives Donated to Providence Public Library

February 20, 2020

Organizational archives encompass 167 years of history of social services and programs to the Rhode Island community

The Special Collections Department at Providence Public Library (PPL) has acquired the organizational archives of the YMCA of Greater Providence (January 2020).  Founded in 1853, the Providence YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) is the second oldest YMCA in the country.  Known for the deep community impact of its programs and services, the history of YMCA of Greater Providence provides an understanding of community history of Rhode Island.

The organizational archives of the YMCA of Greater Providence encompass 167 years of history of social services and programs to the Rhode Island community. The donation to PPL includes more than 15 linear feet of records, including annual reports, meeting minutes, publications, ephemera and photographs.  Of special interest is the vast number of photographs from the late 19th-20th centuries documenting a wide array of YMCA activities, including support for immigrants, summer camps for youth, adult education & training and many social services.

“The YMCA of Greater Providence is a significant organization in the history of Providence, and Rhode Island, dating back to before our own establishment. PPL is incredibly proud to be entrusted with preserving these important historical community materials and we look forward to sharing them for decades to come,” said Jack Martin, PPL Executive Director.

“The Providence YMCA has touched the lives of so many individuals and families in Rhode Island for generations,” said Stephen Palmer, former Chairman of the YMCA of Greater Providence and YUSA Board of Directors. “We are pleased to share this wonderful collection of documents, photographs, and stories with the public and researchers,” said Palmer.

“For over 160 years, the Y has been listening and responding to our neighbors, said Steven G. O’Donnell, YMCA of Greater Providence CEO. “We are deeply fortunate to the Providence Public Library for allowing us to add these incredibly special memories to their archive collections.

“It is very exciting to know that the powerful history and impact of the YMCA in Providence will be secured, protected and accessible to the public for future generations to learn from,” said Michael Fournier, former YMCA of Greater Providence Chief Operating Officer.

“The history of the YMCA in Providence reflects the growth of Providence, and Rhode Island, from the mid-19th century onwards. The collection documents industrial growth and waves of immigration, neighborhood development, the impact of World Wars, and even the beginning of Roger Williams University,” says Kate Wells, Curator of Rhode Island Collections.

Full organization and description of the collection will be completed over the next year with a public opening reception to be announced at a later time. Digitization of portions of the collection will be a priority in the future.

About Providence Public Library

PPL is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1875, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own PPL Foundation. The Library also serves as the Statewide Reference Resource Center holding unique collections and resources.

About the YMCA of Greater Providence

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility with a mission of nurturing the potential of children and families improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. The Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but also deliver, lasting personal and social change. www.ymcagreaterprovidence.org.