Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 01-10-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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8 ENTERTAINMENT JANUARY 10-16, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE LIVING EDITION a small taste of what researchers eventually expect to find among the photos. "I'm going to present a little buffet of possible angles," he said of the old thoroughbred racing track. "It's poli- tics, it's money, it's sports, it's class. You know, there's a ton of stuff." Valley Talks is a series of biweekly historical lectures. The Jan. 13 event will feature Ring presenting on this major acquisi- tion the Rhode Island Historical Society has made as it celebrates its "Rah-Rah Rhody" sports program- ming theme for 2019. The pro- gram, "Gansett: A brief history of Narragansett Racetrack through its photo archive," will feature the com- plete, extant archive of thousands of negatives of photographs taken at the track, which opened in 1934 and offi- cially closed in 1978. This collection, says Ring, includes at least 10,000 negatives, and many as 30,000, some of them dating back to the 1930s. Officials are keeping the name of the photographer who donated them quiet. Ring said it was a man who wanted an entity to take this rich history into its care. The cost just for scanning the images will run between $50,000 and $100,000, said Ring, and there will be additional costs for archival hous- ing and identifying subjects of photos and cataloging the work. Some dates, horse names and jockey names are included. There are candid shots, images from the jockey room, pic- tures from the hospital, and fine photo finishes, all part of a deep his- tory. This thoroughbred racing track was where Seabiscuit set records and was the first park to install a photo finish camera and a starting gate. "We don't even know what we've got yet, I have to get my head around what we have," said Ring. "It's invaluable." He said as he learns more and more about the politics of the track and life of the jockeys, he'll give more talks to promote the archive, with the plan to make it available digitally over the next year. The Pawtucket Preservation Society has reached out about giving a similar talk in that city, he said. Some of the photos in the collec- tion have already been in the public view. A calendar was produced a while back, but there were no identi- fications even for that, said Ring, as the photos were chosen simply for how cool they looked. It's difficult to say how long a proj- ect such as this will take, said Ring. Typically, though, when there's this level of excitement around a certain project, the work gets done more quickly and the grants for doing the work are easier to come by. The Narragansett Park archive will be central to the state agency's spring fundraising party, which will have a "Day at the Races" theme. "Gansett," as it was more popularly known, attracted crowds of 40,000 or more, including many celebrities. By 1937, it was the most profitable track in the country, and it became a gathering place for the glitterati of the late 1930s and '40s: Milton Berle, Cab Calloway, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Mickey Rooney and Alfred Vanderbilt were regulars, as were star athletes such as Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Its cre- ation also sparked the so-called "race track war," a long Rhode Island story of money, politics and conflict. Seating for the program is limited to 75 and is first-come, first-served. Ring has held positions at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, the Providence Public Library and the Watkinson Library at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Other Valley Talks will include: • Jan. 27: Former National Park Ranger Chuck Arning will explore the pull factors that led to the immi- gration of the Irish to the Blackstone River Valley. • Feb. 10: Baseball enthusiast and vintage ballist Jon Henson will sur- vey the rise of the beloved game in the 19th century. • Feb. 24: Mount Saint Charles Hockey Coach David Belisle will discuss the history of the school's illustrious program. • March 10: Writer and historical re-enactor Paul Bourget will explain why the battles fought in 1864 were pivotal to the outcome of the American Civil War. For more information, visit http:// www.rihs.org/mowc-programs . At the Jan. 13 Valley Talks event at the Museum of Work and Culture, Richard Ring will present "GANSETT: A BRIEF HISTORY OF NARRAGANSETT RACETRACK THROUGH ITS PHOTO ARCHIVE." The archives feature the complete, extant archive of thousands of negatives of photographs, like the photo shown above, taken at the track, which opened in 1934 and officially closed in 1978. Learn about volunteering at the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Wednesday WHITINSVILLE, Mass. – Blackstone Heritage Corridor Inc. will host a Volunteer Open House on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at its office at the Linwood Mill, 670 Linwood Ave. BHC Volunteer Coordinator Suzanne Buchanan will lead the event, inviting the public to learn how to participate in a variety of volunteer opportunities available in the region's Volunteers-In-Parks pro- gram. Volunteer open houses are held monthly in various locations through- out the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. To RSVP, email volunteer@ BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org or call 508-234-4242. To learn more, visit www.BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org. 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