In 1999, the Images of America series published a book that contained more than 200 photographs of the city of Cranston, assembled by former Cranston Historical Society curator Lydia Rapoza and longtime member Bette Miller. Now, the Society is at it again, under the leadership of President Sandra Moyer and photo archivist Tom Worthington.
The challenge is that the images used in the initial installment cannot be reused, so the Historical Society is asking the community for help.
"We would like to involve the people of Cranston in what we're doing. If they have pictures, they could either donate them if they wanted to or loan them to us," Moyer said. "I think it would be nice for them to see one of their photographs published."
Anyone with photos from Cranston from 1965 and earlier can also call to make an appointment, and the images will be scanned while you wait. Photo credits will be given to those who provide images for the book, and images of people, landscapes and businesses will be considered. All images will be converted to black and white. Roughly 200 pictures are needed for the book.
"Something that would be iconic from Cranston," Worthington said. "Not just families, but also businesses."
In particular, he would like to see images from Garden City, the Narragansett Brewery, inside Cranston Print Works and the mill houses not far from the Society's headquarters at Sprague Mansion.
Photographs not used for the book will still be scanned into the digital archives. Photographs that are donated are also stored using acid-free paper to best preserve the image.
The initial "Images of America: Cranston" was divided into neighborhood-based sections. For the follow up, Moyer and Worthington will distinguish broad themes, such as agriculture or commerce.
"It tells the story of Cranston," Moyer said.
The Cranston Historical Society has a sizeable collection of old photographs. They are currently in the process of digitally archiving everything in their collection, which Worthington estimates includes more than 1,000 images.
Several hundred were donated by the family of former Providence Journal photographer Wilfred Stone.
"We've gotten some good response," Worthington said, adding that often times, donors just stumble upon the photographs when cleaning attics.
"A lot of times they don't know what they have," Moyer said.
If the donor has information about the photograph, such as who is pictured or a date, that is helpful and would likely end up in the caption. If not, the Society will still consider the image and, if it is going to be used, end up doing some digging of their own.
"Once you start digging into the history and you start researching, you find things you had no idea about. We'll research [the pictures] and squeeze out every piece of information we can about it," Worthington said.
Given the city's rich history and the strong roots of Rhode Islanders, Moyer said she is not surprised that Images of America is doubling back for more history from Cranston.
When asked what enticed the series to reconnect with the Society, Moyer said, "I think maybe the fact that there are still a lot of old buildings left and maybe the fact that there is a strong Historical Society here."
The book, published through Arcadia Publishing, will likely come out before the holidays. The Society is asking for photo submissions by April, giving them time to sort through them, scan and edit in order to meet the September deadline set by the publisher.
All the proceeds will go into the Society's Endowment Fund. Started six years ago, the fund is not tapped for general operating costs.
"Any money that goes into it can't be spent," Moyer said. "It goes in to be invested so eventually we'll have enough to have a steady income. Your money is not going to be spent on something that's not going to last."
To make an appointment for a photograph to be scanned, call the Sprague Mansion at 944-9226. To drop off a photograph, the Mansion is located at 1351 Cranston Street.