The State Name Change

In 2020, in the early days of the COVID pandemic and ongoing social justice demonstrations, the citizens of Rhode Island voted to change the official state name by eliminating “and Providence Plantations”.  While it has been easily removed from stationery and flexible signage, for instance, it is deeply embedded in the State Seal in prominent locations throughout the State House. The State created a Working Group that is evaluating how to best approach the updates throughout the Capitol and other State buildings. In the interim, the students were urged by Governor McKee and guided by Representative Williams, to develop proposals that modify and interpret the tangible remainders of the original name and its legacy.

Proposal 01 - Traces

In this exploration, the original state name/seal will leave “traces”. They are intended to prompt questions and conversations around the history and future of the State of Rhode Island and the process of the name change.
The text that shows “and Providence Plantations” would simply be re-typed in a sewn manner which would allow the name change to be prominent forever. Those viewing the seal in the future would be reminded of the historic change that occurred in 2020.

Proposal 02 - Imprint Enclosed in Glass

The country has changed, the times have changed, and the government needs to evaluate how it portrays its history. To clearly express the peoples’ voice, the words “and Providence Plantations” should be removed from Rhode Island’s official name, but the imprint could be kept as a reminder of the history of the name change.

The seal in its current location, is blocked by balusters and inaccessible. If the seal is lowered and covered by glass, people could be free to walk over it and study it closely.


Proposal 03 - Sink Exhibition

The State House is meant to be a welcoming place for the people and the prominent location of the seal with the original state name, causes discomfort for many. It is critical to move the seal to an educational space that encompasses and explains how the name change came to and the reason for its amendment.

In this proposal the original seal will be carefully removed and preserved, and in its place a new seal, etched in glass, will serve as an oculus for a newly created  interpretive museum under the rotunda.