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George W. Potter and Alfred M. Williams Memorial Manuscript Collection

Scope & content

The Potter MSS span the years 1899-1981 with a greater concentration on 1949-1960. It begins with Alfred M. Williams’s small collection of writings donated posthumously in 1899 and ends in 1981 with correspondence and related material to and from Providence Public Library’s Special Collections curator Virginia M. Adams. The bulk of the material is by George W. Potter and includes his rough draft of To the Golden Door: the History of the Irish in Ireland and America. Also included is Potter’s correspondence with librarians, Irish writers and readers, and a collection of newspaper clippings about Irish history and related news. His manuscripts and clippings show how close his relationship was with the Irish literary world and how instrumental he was in printing works by Irish writers in the Providence Journal.

Most of the other correspondence is from the Providence Public Library librarians Clarence E. Sherman, Stuart C. Sherman and Virginia M. Adams. These letters span the dates 1949-1981 with the bulk of them dating 1949-1960. These letters show day to day activities of the librarians dealing with developing and maintaining the collection, providing service to academic institutions, hosting events and exhibits showcasing their unique collection, and other developments. These activities illuminate how much of a priority maintaining the collection was to the library and how important it was for the librarians to educate the public about Irish culture and history.

The miscellaneous material provides random information such as a list of the Williams Memorial Advisory Committee and their addresses, a list of Rhode Island Irish Societies, the financial history of the collection, collection description with emphasis on the facsimiles of the Lindsfarne Gospels, the Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells, several photographs of Potter and other committee members, and miscellaneous unidentified correspondence. The original order of the collection is unknown.