About EnCompass

Welcome to EnCompass: A Digital Sourcebook of Rhode Island History.

EnCompass is a digital resource for the study of Rhode Island history. Produced by the Rhode Island Historical Society with web support from Providence College’s Phillips Memorial Library Digital Projects to provide a free instructional tool for educators, each module on this site is aligned with current educational standards for history and social studies in Rhode Island, and is targeted toward Grades K-12. 

While our shorthand in talking about EnCompass is often to call it a textbook, it differs greatly from the textbooks with which we’re all familiar. Unlike a textbook that is published and, therefore, frozen in time, this site is ever-expandable and updatable.  More essays can be written. Additional primary sources can be attached. New facts can replace old assumptions.  And multiple voices and approaches can more easily be shared. 

In fact, featuring multiple perspectives and approaches is a primary objective of this work.  When you look at the modules on this site, each will have a main essay.  This essay will be written by a person with a particular perspective and approach: that of a scholar, an educator, a public historian, a cultural ambassador.  Some of the writers are academic historians and anthropologists.  Others source their knowledge in deep cultural study and practice.  To understand Rhode Island’s history is to understand and value the many ways there are to grapple with the past.

Each module also has shorter, “side essays.”  These essays explore in more depth a particular point, artifact, person, or place.  These side essays are written by students, teachers, and scholars.  More will be added as they are written, because there are countless ways to delve into the study of the past, and these essays are interpretations, or arguments, about particular aspects of our history. 

While we all know that Rhode Island has a vast history, not everyone knows that it also has a broad landscape of history and heritage organizations.  More than 400, in fact. EnCompass features objects and documents from the Rhode Island Historical Society collections and the collections of other history and heritage organizations in Rhode Island.  As EnCompass grows, we hope to add more images and materials from our partners throughout the state.  

How EnCompass Took Shape

After conducting teacher focus groups and surveys, thanks to generous funding from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the first topical module on Roger Williams was rolled out in October of 2016 and a revitalized version launched in September 2017. Modules are being uploaded as they are completed. Rather than following a chronological order, the modules in EnCompass follow an order dictated by relevance to classrooms’ needs as identified by feedback we received from teacher focus groups and surveys. 

How to Use EnCompass

Each module contains a main essay.  Images of primary and secondary resources within the main essay link to smaller essays that provide further information about the main topic or cover events and people contemporary with the main topic.  Content standards, additional resources, lesson plans, and references also accompany each module.

As modules are added, primary resources will be added to the Primary Source gallery, showcasing some of the objects and paper archives available in organizations throughout the state.

If you have an idea for another essay, another module, or an image to be added, please contact education@rihs.org.

We hope you enjoy learning from EnCompass and find it useful in your teaching.



Parts of EnCompass were made possible through major funding from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH), an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.