Skip to main content
Opened In 1998

The R.W. Woolworth Library & Research Center

The Woolworth Library is a community research staple. We welcome and assist curious residents and friends from all walks of life with their questions and research, and offer volunteer opportunities for those passionate about the humanities or looking to get involved and make an impact in their community.




Mondays 1 pm to 5 pm
Wednesdays 9 am to 5 pm
Fridays 1 pm to 4 pm


We encourage all visitors to make appointments to ensure space is available. Please email the librarian at or call (860) 535-1131.

A small fee of $10 per day will be charged to use the library. Residents of the town of Stonington and all members of the Stonington Historical Society have free access.


The Richard W. Woolworth Library & Research Center
40 Palmer Street
Stonington, Connecticut
(860) 535-1131

Please direct all library correspondence to:
R.W. Woolworth Library
P.O. Box 103
Stonington, CT 06378


The Woolworth Library’s main collections focus on Stonington’s history and its people, with a secondary focus on the surrounding areas of North Stonington, New London, southern Rhode Island, and southeast Connecticut. The collections include over 60 linear feet of manuscript files; books on the history and people of the area, including genealogies; local and county histories; ledgers and account books; city directories; war records; and copies of the land and probate record books.


The Woolworth Library also holds an extensive collection of historical photographs of the area, supplied by generous donations from two former Stonington residents. Rollie McKenna (1918-2003) and Maurice LaGrua (1915-2005), celebrated local photographers, donated many of their images to the Woolworth Library, creating a visual record of Stonington from the 1940s to the 1980s.

In addition to our manuscript library and photograph collections, The Woolworth Library also has a repository of local newspapers including the microfilms of the Stonington Mirror and Mystic Pioneer from 1870-1931. The Stonington Mirror Newspaper has been digitized and is available here:

If you want to learn more about the collection policy of the Woolworth Library, please read our General Collection Criteria below.

General Collection Criteria

Items accessioned by the SHS into the Woolworth Library, whether by gift, bequest, purchase, transfer, exchange, abandonment, or any other transaction by which title to the material passes to SHS, are intended to be retained for the long-term and are reviewed according to the following general criteria:

  1. Materials must be consistent with the purposes and activities of SHS, as well as our mission statement.
  2. Items must be unique in a collection area, fulfill a specific need within the collection, or open a new and relevant collecting area within the overall mission of SHS.
  3. Groups of items that do not entirely fit within SHS’s usual parameters will be accepted only if the collection as a whole has historical, local, or cultural merit to the community.
  4. SHS must be able to provide appropriate storage, protection, and preservation under conditions that ensure the material’s usefulness for the future and research in the long term, according to professional library standards.
  5. The physical condition of the items must not threaten or endanger any other collection items, persons working with them, or property.
  6. Public records may be transferred to SHS only by the governing body with authority over such records or with that body’s express permission; no private individual or entity can presume ownership of any public record, even if as the apparent result of abandonment, discard, or attempted destruction. SHS may assume temporary custody of such items for the purpose of reinstating them to the public domain.
  7. Accepted items or collections of items should have a clear chain of provenance, whenever possible.
  8. Potential donors should possess clear title and have ability to transfer ownership and clear title to SHS.
  9. Materials may not be encumbered by restrictions or limitations to public access.
  10. Items will not be accepted if they were collected or recovered under circumstances that might encourage irresponsible damage to collecting sites, cultural monuments, or human burial places.
  11. Acceptance of an item shall not impose unbudgeted expense, unless funding can be provided or identified at time of acceptance.

Items offered as Gifts. Loans or Bequests Items may be placed in the custody of SHS for the purpose of acquisition, loan or resale for the benefit of SHS. Non-accessioned items given to SHS may be disposed of for the benefit of collections.

  1. Information will be solicited from the donor at the time the gift is offered, including its provenance and conservation history.
  2. In considering a gift, the Collections Committee has the following options:
    1. Accept the item(s) and accession it (them) into the Library


  1. Accept the item(s) for use or resale purposes without


  1. Table consideration pending further research, expert opinion, or deliberation, for no more than six months.
  2. Return the item(s) to the donor or seller.
  3. No donation may be appraised by a member of the Board, the Collections Committee, or SHS staff; nor may SHS pay for such an appraisal.
  4. It is the responsibility of the donor to obtain an appraisal for the gift in accordance with current IRS regulations. If an appraisal is obtained, the SHS requests a copy of the appraisal for its files.


  1. Purchases must be recommended by the Library Director upon the approval of the Collections Committee.
  2. Funds specifically allocated for the care or purchase of items for the Library Collections shall be maintained as restricted funds.
  3. Acquisition funds must be in hand, designated, or promised in writing before an item may be recommended for purchase by the Library Director. Unbudgeted or unfunded purchases must be approved by the Executive Committee and/or the Board of Directors, upon recommendation of the Library Director and Collections Committee.  The Library Director reserves the right to produce a wish list of items intended for the collection that may be outside budgetary allocations. This list will be available to any and all individuals interested in purchasing an item for the library. Any purchases from the Wish List will be marked with the purchaser’s name, and a mention in the next issue of Footnotes. Members of the Collections Committee reserve the right to question any item on the Wish List for relevance, usefulness and cost.
  4. The Library Director shall prepare an information sheet on any proposed purchase valued at more than $100, with all pertinent data including the item’s provenance (if available) and relevance to the collection described.
  5. Where named funds are used for a purchase, this will be noted in the motion to accept and recorded as a credit line.
  6. Purchases from staff, Board or committee members or their immediate family members shall comply with the Director Code of Ethics and be made public in Society’s Annual Report.

Registration of Approved Accessions

  1. Original purchase and other documents will be kept by the Library Director in the appropriate accession files. The Library Director provides accession (control) numbers following authorization by the Collections Committee.
  2. The acceptance of all gifts and bequests shall be without restriction.

No commitment shall be made as to exhibition, attribution, or placement of potential gifts. While it is the SHS’s usual intention to accession for long-term use and preservation, no guarantee shall be made that the gift or bequest will be retained by the SHS in perpetuity. There shall be no exceptions to this policy unless any such restrictions or special provisions are considered advisable by the Collections Committee and are approved by the Board of Directors. In such cases, a signed statement of approval should be filed with the accession record.

  1. The SHS’s Deed of Gift is mandatory and shall be signed by the legal owner(s) or his/her authorized agent before the object can be accessioned. For bequests, a copy of the will, all codicils, and the letters of testamentary should be obtained and kept in the records of the permanent collections. All releases or receipts must be signed by the Library Director. The SHS is not obliged to accept bequeathed items that are not deemed appropriate to the collections.

III. Deaccessions

SHS may deem it necessary or advisable to deaccession materials to refine and improve the collections.


  1. Accessioned items or categories of accessioned items may only be deaccessioned upon the advice of the Library Director with approval of the Collections Committee.
  2. Any item, whether deaccessioned or never accessioned, that is valued at $5,000 or more must be approved by the Board of Directors before it can be offered for sale.
  3. In no case will any item be deaccessioned without documentation and specific approval of the Collections Committee, except that the Library Director has the authority to withdraw excess copies of publications, images and other library items that no longer meet the criteria for acquisition or whenever copies are replaced with copies in better condition.

Criteria for Deaccessioning and Withdrawal

  1. Relevance: The item or collection does not fall within the scope of the mission of SHS or the criteria for acquisition.
  2. Redundancy: duplicates one or more items in the collection that are of higher quality and/or does not serve an alternative use or research purpose.
  3. Physical integrity: The item is in a condition such that its conservation is not practical or restoration would render it essentially false, or if its condition endangers the preservation of other items in the collection or buildings or the health and safety of people.
  4. The authenticity of the item has been refuted beyond reasonable doubt.
  5. Legality: the item was acquired by questionable means or subject to cultural repatriation or any rule or agreement that makes its ownership questionable.
  6. Restrictions: Donor restrictions are contrary to the exhibition and study of the object.
  7. Except in cases of human health or collections safety, accessioned items will normally be retained for a minimum of two years before being deaccessioned.

Compliance with Legal Requirements Objects must be deaccessioned in accordance with the following requirements.

  1. SHS must determine that it holds clear legal title to any object considered for deaccession. When appropriate, donors or their heirs will be notified and the reasons for deaccessioning explained to them.
  2. Any mandatory restrictions on the disposition of items already in the collections will be determined and strictly observed.
  3. When appropriate, funds raised from a given sale will be identified with the name of the original donor of the item.
  4. The final authority to deaccession and dispose of Library Collections rests with the Board of Directors, but no object will be considered for deaccessioning without the advice of the Library Director and the Collections Committee having been duly considered.
  5. The Library Director in consultation with the Collections Committee shall recommend the time and method of disposal, and the subsequent disposition shall be noted in the minutes of the Board of Directors.
  6. No staff member, Board member, or member of the Collections Committee, or their immediate family, shall be permitted to acquire directly or indirectly, any work deaccessioned by the SHS, or otherwise to benefit from its sale or trade.
  7. Expert consultants who are asked to evaluate or appraise works on collections will be advised that this work shall disqualify them from handling the sale of the objects.

Methods of Disposal

  1. In order to keep the objects in the public domain where possible, the Collections Committee will consider whether a gift or exchange with another nonprofit institution would be preferable to sale.
  2. If the sale is selected, the primary objective shall be to obtain the best possible price at a public auction, preferably outside the community. For any object valued at more than $10,000, two disinterested outside written appraisals from qualified dealers or appraisers will be obtained prior to recommendation to the Board of Directors.
  3. Items deaccessioned and chosen for the book sale will be reviewed by the Library Director before the final sale. The Library Director reserves the right to recommend prices for the items involved in the public book sale.

Proceeds from Disposition

  1. Non-capitalization of Collections: In compliance with professional library standards, it is the policy of SHS not to capitalize its collections or to treat them as financial assets.
  2. SHS shall not use revenues from the disposal of its collections in order to provide financial support for institutional operations, facilities, salaries, maintenance, capital improvements, or any other purposes other than the acquisition or direct conservation of collections.
  3. It is the policy of SHS not to treat or represent its collections as capital assets, including but not limited to financial reports and records, loan applications, and security against acquired or bonded debt.
  4. Net proceeds derived from the sale of a deaccessioned object (i.e., the proceeds of the disposition less all related expenses) shall be placed in funds restricted to the replenishment or conservation of the collections, consistent with the Collections Acquisition Plan and acquisition procedures of the SHS.


  1. The conditions and circumstances of the deaccession will be entered and retained permanently as part of the SHS collections records. A file on the object will be retained, consisting of photographs, conservation reports, and other useful information about the item.
  2. Loans

General criteria

  1. SHS may participate in loan programs in order to provide broader public accessibility to objects owned by the SHS, as long as the loans are consistent with the long-term conservation of the objects and the needs of the SHS’s exhibition and research programs.
  2. All loans will be for specified periods of time and will be documented according to the established procedures of the Collections Committee. All loans must be contracted for by written loan agreements between the SHS and borrowers and lenders prior to receipt or shipment.
  3. Loans (incoming and outgoing) require approval of the Executive Director acting on the recommendations of the Library Director and with the approval of the Collections Committee
  4. The Library Director maintains complete records of all library materials loaned and tracks loan activity. Records concerning loans will be maintained in perpetuity as part of the organization’s history.


  1. Loan requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and are dependent on the nature and condition of the object, proposed use, and the borrower’s ability to meet professional standards of care and exhibition.
  2. Requests for loans shall be made in writing to SHS and must include all contact information from the borrowing institution, items requested, purpose, description of exhibit, and requested duration of the loan.
  3. Items may not be loaned to individuals.
  4. Loaned items will be credited to the Stonington Historical Society as provided for in SHS Outgoing Loan Agreement.
  5. Risk Management: A Standard Facilities Report from the borrowing institution detailing the environment in which the item would be displayed will help guide the Library Director and Committee in making a determination of whether to make a loan or not.
  6. The duration of the loan, the level of security, and the borrowing institution’s mission in relation to SHS’s mission will also be considered.
  7. Loans to institutions without Standard Facilities Reports will be considered provided conditions are satisfactory for the requested item.
  8. A condition report must be filed with the collection records before the item is packed or transported. A copy of the condition report must be included with other papers for the borrowing institution, which will monitor item’s condition throughout loan period and record a final condition report before the item is returned to SHS.
  9. Items will not be loaned if deemed too fragile for transport or if proposed use might endanger the artifact’s long-term preservation.
  10. Items on loan may not be treated or otherwise altered in any way without express written permission from the Executive Director of SHS, on advice from Library Director and Committee.
  11. The borrowing institution may not photograph or otherwise reproduce images of the items except for purposes of publicizing the loan and/or the exhibit for which the loan was made. The item’s correct identification and ownership must be listed on all labels and publicity which features the item.
  12. Images thus made may not be used for other or later purposes without express permission of SHS.
  13. Items on loan from SHS may not be photographed by the public.
  14. Loans may not be transferred by the borrower to any other institution or individual.
  15. SHS retains the right to rescind a loan if risk to the item becomes apparent during the loan period or the use reflects negatively on SHS.


  1. Loaned items will be assigned an insurance value prior to their release from SHS. The borrower will provide wall-to-wall insurance and indemnification and a certificate of insurance prior to shipping.
  2. SHS does not charge loan fees. However, the borrower shall cover all expenses relating to the loan, including professional appraisal if needed, packing and shipping, framing, or other exhibit-related issues.
  3. All loans shall be for a stated term, agreed to, and signed by both parties on an Outgoing Loan Agreement form.
  4. The maximum term of a loan shall be one year, subject to renewal upon approval of the Executive Director on the recommendation of the Library Director and Committee.

Temporary Custody for Professional Services

  1. Authorized contractors, such as conservators and framers, may receive items on a temporary basis for purposes of conservation, identification, research, or appraisal. Such custody is documented on a Receipt/Release form and does not constitute a formal loan.
  2. Records of materials in temporary custody shall be maintained by the Library Director.
  3. Care and Control of the Collections


  1. Collections records provide legal documentation of the Museum and Library Collections, establish and document provenance, and provide a permanent record of the care, use, location, and disposition of all items.
  2. All collections documents are considered permanent records to be retained in perpetuity, whether or not the item is retained in the collections.
  3. Documents to be retained included all correspondence, documents and forms related to the acquisition or transfer, records and images related to internal collections management. Additionally, documents related to temporary incoming loans shall be maintained separately.
  4. The maintenance of accurate, up-to-date records on the identification, location, and well-being of collection items is a major responsibility of the SHS.
  5. The Library Director shall maintain and make available to qualified staff and researchers original records regarding accessioned or loaned items in the custody of the SHS, when available. Any staff member in possession of such original documents establishing right and title to objects shall forward them to the Library Director for proper filing.
  6. The primary purpose of these records is the control and documentation of the collections. Therefore, these records should provide at least the following information, which will be recorded according to accepted standards.
  7. Identifying a description of the object, a photograph of the object, and the appropriate accession number.
  8. Legal status of the object, how its title was acquired, i.e. by gift, bequest, purchase, transfer, or exchange, and from whom.
  9. Such provenance data is needed to contribute to the establishment of the legal status of the object.
  10. Ongoing activity concerning the object, e.g., loans, exhibitions, conservation, and movement inside/outside the SHS.
  11. Current location of each object.
  12. All primary records will be safeguarded from hazards, such as fire, water, smoke damage, and loss. Duplicate electronic accession records will be maintained.

Standard Forms

  1. Temporary Custody Receipt: This form shows the name and contact information of the owner of items left in the custody of SHS, specifying whether the items are
  2. An unconditional donation
  3. To be considered for acquisition into SHS collections
  4. For identification or study
  5. Other

This form also asks potential donors to acknowledge disposition in case the item is not accepted for accession:

  1. The source will pick up the item upon request
  2. SHS will dispose or destroy for the donor
  3. SHS may sell to benefit SHS
  4. Deed of Gift form: This form transfers title to SHS.
  5. Incoming Loan form
  6. Outgoing Loan form
  7. Donor Records: Correspondence, legal papers, appraisals, publications, etc.
  8. Accession Log: List of items accessioned into the Library Collections.
  9. Collections Database: PastPerfect Museum Software
  10. Condition Report: This report documents the condition of SHS items prior to release for loan, return of loan, and should also be made on a periodic basis to monitor preservation problems.
  11. Conservation Report: documents conservation treatment proposed or performed.
  12. Environmental Report: Records and analyzes climatic conditions and light in exhibition and storage areas at various SHS facilities and museums.
  13. Annual Report: Documents activity concerning the Library Collections, including acquisitions, removals, loans, exhibitions, and publications.


Every reasonable effort shall be made to monitor and protect items in the collections from careless handling, vandalism, theft, fire, water, infestation, exposure to environmental hazards, and natural disasters. SHS’s Museum and Library Collections shall be stored and exhibited under appropriate conditions to ensure items on-going preservation. Collections will be protected against light, temperature and humidity fluctuations, dust, theft, vermin, and any other hazards as far as is practical. Where possible, collections will be stored in a secure, climate control area that is segregated from other, non-collection items.

  1. Condition reports will be added to the database on an ongoing basis, as specified by the Library Director.
  2. A review of environmental conditions and ways to improve conditions will be made by the Library Director on an annual basis.
  3. The Library Director will recommend specific treatment for items in the Library Collections and/or recommend the advice of outside conservators.
  4. Access to the Collections

As a public institution, the SHS will strive to provide the public and the press maximum accessibility to the collections consistent with reasonable request, staff availability, and the security, safety, and conservation of the objects. Requests for access to the collections not on public display will be coordinated with the Library Director.

  1. Insurance and Risk Management

Insurance of SHS collections is maintained to cover the cost of replacement, repair, or restoration of lost, stolen, or damaged artifacts whenever possible. It is understood that many items in the collections are irreplaceable. Funds secured through or by an insurance claim involving collections items shall be reserved exclusively for the purpose of direct care or purchase of collections.

  1. Proof of insurance coverage is required for all incoming loans under the following options and within the parameters of SHS coverage: SHS will insure incoming loans under its own insurance policy, providing that the lender submits values for each item loaned with the signed Loan Agreement, and that the value amount given is the sole recovery available in the event of loss or damage.
  2. Lenders may elect to maintain their own insurance policy provided that SHS is listed as an additional insured on that policy or is provided with a certificate confirming waiver of subrogation. SHS does not additionally insure incoming loans when Lenders maintain their own insurance.
  3. The Library Director will administer insurance coverage and ensure that loan agreements and receipts are in hand to effect coverage.
  4. In the interest of good risk management, all damage or loss must be reported to the Library Director as soon as possible.
  5. SHS does not accept permanent or long-term loans. Long-term loans accepted before 2010 will be reviewed and renewed if advised by the Library Director and the Collections Committee. Every effort will be made to convert such items into permanent gifts.
  6. Unclaimed Loans: It is the responsibility of the owner of the property to notify SHS promptly in writing of changes in address or ownership status. SHS will maintain notices of intent to maintain ownership for not less than 25 years. Should a lender cease communication regarding the intent of interest in loaned property within that period, the item will be deemed abandoned.
  7. SHS will not perform or allow any repairs, alterations, or conservation treatment of any loaned item without the lender’s prior and specific written permission.


The SHS will undertake a periodic inventory of its collections. The goal of the inventory is to verify the location of Museum and Library Collection items, assess improper or wasted storage space; identify major conservation problems; and identify non-accessioned objects.

  1. Exceptions

If exceptional circumstances arise that run contrary to the above policies and procedures, the Collections Committee may present its recommendation to the Board of Directors for a determination.