Collaborative student and faculty research is a critical
component of education in the cultural and historic preservation program.
Students have myriad opportunities to work with faculty on a wide range of
The cultural and historic preservation program has two
initiatives that engage students directly in Newport’s past. These include the
Neighborhoods of Newport series of surveys and publications about Newport’s
architectural heritage and the Eighteenth-Century Merchants Project.
In the former, students carry out architectural survey
and evaluation of Newport’s lesser-known working class and ethnic
neighborhoods. These surveys have led to two publications, with two more
anticipated by 2012. The Eighteenth-Century Merchants Project is a partnership
with the Newport Restoration Foundation, the Preservation Society of Newport
County and the Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Environmental Archaeology to
study the material worlds of the elite during Newport’s “Golden Age’ of
mercantile trade and commerce.
Students engaged in laboratory classes and collaborative
research make direct contributions to interpreting the history of Newport. In
keeping with the program’s mission integration statement, faculty foster
research that promotes interpretation of all aspects of Newport’s history and
brings preservation to new constituencies.
Other current projects include:
Joshua Appleby Williams Project
In 1906, Henry James penned “The Sense of Newport,” a
lengthy, methodical diatribe against the changes that had been wrought to the
landscape since his boyhood. “Newport now bristles with the villas and palaces
into which the cottages have all turned, and that these monuments of pecuniary
power rise thick, and close, precisely, in order that their occupants may
constantly remark to each other, from the windows to the ‘grounds,’ and from
house to house, that it is beautiful, it is solitary, and
James’ hostility, targeted directly at the material world
of Newport, is indicative of the extent to which the city represented a
completely different place from the one that he had known in the early
1860s. The speed with which the
construction of new “villas” had occurred, and the social and cultural
repercussions that accompanied the building boom, represented the most drastic
alterations in the architectural and social fabric in the city’s history.
This hostility toward an altered Newport finds resonance
in the work of a local photographer named Joshua Appleby Williams, who was the
most prolific creator of stereographic images of Newport from approximately
1864 through the mid-1880s. His views, sold in prominent venues throughout the
city, became the principal material means by which images of Newport were
transmitted to the rest of the country and to the world.
Students in the cultural and historic preservation program
are scanning and cataloguing approximately 300 stereoscopic images of Newport
produced by Williams and other stereographers from the 1860s and 1870s. The
goal of the project is to create a catalogue raisonne of photographic images of
the city from this crucial time period in its history.
St. Mary’s Cemetery Preservation Plan
During the fall 2010 semester, students in the course
Preservation of Historic Cemeteries will undertake a preservation plan for St.
Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery on Newport’s Warner Street. Established in the
early 1840s to serve Newport’s growing Irish and Irish-American populations,
the cemetery is one of Rhode Island’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic
Although once a significant component of Irish-American
culture in Newport, St. Mary’s is now largely forgotten. Decay and deferred
maintenance threaten the survival of the site. Before any intervention can be
made, the history and existing conditions of the site need to be documented
The study of St. Mary’s Cemetery offers rich
possibilities for understanding the challenges that the Irish faced in America.
Immigrants adopted American forms of grave markers and transformed them through
the use of symbolism. Epitaphs identify the county, parish and even the
villages from which the immigrants came. When used in concert with census
records, city directories and newspaper accounts, the grave markers will reveal
a nuanced understanding of the complexities of Irish life in the new world.
Building from Kathleen Miller’s 2007 senior thesis,
students will map St. Mary’s, conduct GIS analyses of the cemetery’s
development over time, record and assess markers, and prepare portions of a
preservation plan for the site. The preservation plan will be available in
Click here for a gallery of photographs of St.