PVA receives $6,300 grant

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The Pawtuxet Village Association can digitize their newspaper The Bridge thanks to a grant from the Heritage Harbor Foundation.

“This is very exciting for us. I know that [Janet Hartman] has been working on this for a long time and it’s been a very important concern for us that The Bridge information not only be able to be accessed by a lot of people,” said Alice Pace, chair of the PVA Board of Directors. “These are stories that have been handed down or told around the table or in the Village and it’s a good thing to have them down on paper, especially important to have it to where people later can access it and see what happened.”

PVA Members gathered at the Pawtuxet Rangers Armory last Thursday to celebrate the $6,300 grant that will allow them to move their content online for more readers to find. The armory will also host a computer and kiosk with a database for users to access the content.

Patrick T. Conley president of the Heritage Harbor Foundation, who said the grant money came out of the Foundation’s interest revenue, presented the grant to the PVA Board of Directors. Conley also left copies of his book Rambles of Rhode Island and Beyond and copies of Hazel Kennedy’s A Historic Guide to Pawtuxet for the armory library.

PVA Members thanked Conley for the grant and discussed how the new digital bridge will be put into place for use.

“We’ve been doing The Bridge since 1986 as a tabloid size newspaper and I think that’s pretty phenomenal for a band of volunteers,” said Hartman. “That’s a lot of years of volunteering and putting stories together and research and advertising and all the rest.”

The need to digitize the paper was realized after people asked PVA members about different Rhode Island families or historical subjects that had once been documented in issues of The Bridge. Though Hartman joked that PVA members collect copies of the paper in their attic, there was no way to find the information requested without knowing the exact issue.

Currently, Hartman said, the PVA is working with a Rhode Island company that will scan every issue, index everything, and do optical character recognition on each page (pages will be scanned as photos, which OCR converts into words).

When that process is finished, the general public can search for topics or family names in a Google-style database. All the information in all these newspapers will be available. Users from anywhere on the Internet can re read stories or use them for research.

Hartman said she hopes historical groups and children’s tours will use it, and said the PVA will do workshops to acquaint people with the new system.

“We think it’s pretty exciting. It will take us a little while to get to the end, but we’re up and running,” Hartman said.

Other recipients of the grants from the Heritage Harbor Foundation included the Museum of Work and Culture, $19,000; Newport Historical Society, $20,000; Lippitt House Museum, $7,200; Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association, $6,259; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, $20,000; Stages of Freedom, $17,500; Steamship Historical Society of America, $20,000; and Save the Bay, $21,278.

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