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URI digitizes hundreds of films in Sen. Pell archive

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island has recently digitized hundreds of 16-millimeter films, videotapes, reel-to-reel tapes and audio recordings in the Sen. Claiborne Pell Papers at URI’s Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons.

In a release announcing the process URI boasted that it was now “as simple as a click of a computer mouse to view hours of videos of the late United States senator with local, national and international leaders.”

Sen. Pell made an initial gift of $75,000 to the university to begin processing and preserving his senatorial papers, the Pell family later made a $200,000 challenge grant to continue the grant.

Since then, additional private donations have been received, including a $50,000 anonymous gift. The University is still seeking roughly $40,000 in donations to complete the project.

“Work is on schedule to archive all of Senator Pell’s work, but the project will not be completed for a few years,” said the URI release.

Sen. Pell began transferring his papers to URI in 1974, early in his career in the Senate. Originally on loan, the materials were officially donated to the university in 2012.

Included in the archive are original works of legislation from the senator, correspondence with constituents and colleagues, reports, speeches, invitations, and photographs, including many other documents and family papers dating back more than 100 years. According to URI, the entire collection totals roughly 2,500 linear feet of files.

“Digitizing the films was a critical step to preserving them because film erodes over time and they could become unviewable,” Mark Dionne, URI’s political papers archivist, said in prepared remarks. “We have a lot of unique materials in the collection, and if they erode we would lose a lot of that history.”

The Pell archive is the largest archive of political papers maintained at the URI library, according to the school’s release, which added that the university also stores the papers of former Sen. John Chafee, former Govs. William Vanderbilt, Frank Licht, Philip Noel, J. Joseph Garrahy, Edward DiPrete, Bruce Sundlun and Lincoln Almond, as well as those of former Reps. Claudine Schneider and Robert Weygand and the senatorial papers of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, among others.

To view an index of the Pell Papers, visit www.uri.edu.

University of Rhode Island, URI’s Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons, Sen. Claiborne Pell Papers,

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