The RIHS Drop-Scene Project

2:00 pm, February 19, 2023, Blackstone Valley Historical Society 1872 Old Louisquiset Pike, Lincoln, RI

Richard Ring, RIHS

Free Lecture. All welcome.

Richard Ring, the Deputy Executive Director for Collections & Interpretation at the Rhode Island Historical Society, is coming on February 19 to talk about the RIHS’s Drop Scene Project. The RIHS’s Theater Drop-Scene is the earliest known surviving American theater backdrop.

The backdrop features a panoramic view of Providence from the base of Federal Hill looking east, painted by John Worrall in about 1809-1810. John Worrall (ca. 1783–September 14, 1825), was a scenery painter who had worked in Boston. It was made for the first theater in Providence, which was located at the corner of Westminster and Mathewson, a spot currently occupied by Grace Church. In the 1790’s John Brown gave the lot for the theater, and subscribed for seven shares of the company. The theater opened in 1795. The Historical Society acquired the drop-scene in 1833, soon after the theater was demolished and the land sold to the Grace Church Corporation. It is the largest graphic image of Providence in their collection.

The Drop Scene Project 2018-2022

The RIHS has been engaged in a massive project to restore and make available this image of Providence, and it has taken four years, from 2018 to 2022. The drop scene was first cleaned and then conservation work was done by Curtains Without Borders. Then Artopia Giclée of Stoneham, MA took 76 digital photographs of the scene and stitched them together. The image was then digitally retouched using existing visual information, and printed onto large pieces of heavy art paper at 1/4 scale for the artist to work on. The artist physically painted areas of the image that were difficult to repair digitally. The photographer then shot the painted prints and put them together to make a restored digital image for display and interactive use. We can see again what Providence looked like in 1810.

Read more about the Drop-Scene Project, and come on Sunday, February 19 to learn all about it.

Photograph of the restoration work from 2018 courtesy of RIHS.