Searching for a “lost” record and can’t find it? You might not
be looking in the right place. Handwritten documents (letters, diaries and
personal papers) traveled with Rhode Islanders in their trips across the
country. If your Rhode Island relative left the area for California and settled
in several different towns along the way, they could’ve left their manuscripts
behind in any one of those communities. Finding those items is a bit like
looking for a needle in a haystack. There is help available.
What’s a manuscript? First let’s start with a definition. According to Tim Salls,
Archivist of the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections Department, “manuscripts
are handwritten documents as well as typewritten unpublished material.” This
includes photographs and items typically considered one of a kind. Archivists
usually create finding aids for collections that contain a note about the scope
of the material, information on previous owners and an inventory of items.