Full steam ahead for Steamship Society of America’s new home

Former NEIT library building at Post Road campus gets new purpose, as Steamship Historical Society.

From The Providence Journal:

Matthew Schulte, executive director of the Steamship Historical Society of America, shows off a model of the steamship Franconia at the organization’s new headquarters on Post Road in Warwick, that will include a reference facility and museum.

There was a time when steamships ruled the oceans.With fires stoked with coal, giant boilers generated the steam necessary to power huge ships such as the Titanic, the Carpathia and the Queen Mary as they sailed the globe.

Gallery: Steamship Historical Society moves to Warwick

As the 20th century progressed, however, the internal combustion engine began to edge out steam as the predominant power source for transportation.

Knowing that steam technology was waning, a group of historians and steamship aficionados gathered in a garage in West Barrington in the mid-1930s and also met with kindred spirits in New York city.

Their goal was to celebrate and preserve the history of steamships and the technology that had humble beginnings on riverboats dating to the late 18th century.

The Steamship Historical Society of America was born with founding members that included knowledgeable maritime historians such as William King Covell of Newport and art collector Elwin M. Eldredge of New York City.Over the years, they were able to amass an impressive collection of artifacts, photographs and art, and attract about 2,500 members in 15 countries.But until now, the nonprofit organization has never had one home for all its collection.

On Tuesday, Matthew Schulte, executive director of the society, and Mayor Scott Avedisian announced that the historical society is in the process of moving into the former library building of the New England Institute of Technology at 2500 Post Rd.

Calling the roughly 8,000-square-foot space “perfect,” Schulte said the historical group plans to create exhibits for the public plus have enough room for researchers to pore through its extensive archives, which include ships’ schematics, brochures and other information from famous steamship lines such as Cunard and White Star.

“The plan to consolidate into one building has been in the works for a decade,” society president Erik Ryan said in a statement. “Our library in was in Baltimore for 30 years but closed in 2006. Our maritime arts collection is in storage in New York. Now they will come together along with thousands of photographs, ephemera and artifacts and our professional staff all under one roof.”

Avedisian, who helped the society connect with New England Tech, said it is a perfect fit for the city, not only because Warwick is a coastline community, but also because he is committed to attracting “historic and cultural organizations to our city.”

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