Archive contains thousands of pieces of Cianci memorabilia

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rows of cardboard boxes labeled with multi-color notepaper line the basement of a Providence building.

They’re meticulously stacked and categorized, forming two corridors on the concrete, and they all belonged to one person: Buddy Cianci.

The infamous, longest-serving mayor of Providence kept nearly everything from his career: notes, receipts, campaign buttons, bumper stickers, even shovels used for groundbreaking ceremonies.

Brad Turchetta, Cianci’s nephew and chairman of the Cianci Foundation, said there are 5,000 hours of video on VHS, 600 boxes of paperwork, and 600,000 photographs.

There’s Cianci holding a young child, or in a chef’s hat with his signature “Mayor’s Own Marinara Sauce.” A large black-and-white photograph shows a young Cianci proudly holding freshly caught fish alongside his father. Another photo shows him with Elizabeth Taylor. Turchetta said it’s only some of what Cianci left behind.

Turchetta said they’ve cataloged about 35 percent of what Cianci had in storage. When he died in 2016, he had warehouses full of storage bins and two garages filled with an assortment of things he collected over the decades.

“It’s a walk down memory lane from 1974 to the day he died,” said Turchetta, who showed the archives to members of the news media on Tuesday morning. “If you wanted to know how a mid-sized American city was run, grew, thrived and what everyone called, ‘experienced a renaissance,’ you look at these folders.”

Paul Campbell, a former city archivist for Providence who worked alongside Cianci, has been tasked with combing through each individual piece. So far, he’s logged close to 300 hours of work.

“You know I’m working down here sometimes, most of the time alone, and you almost get the presence that he’s sometimes looking over your shoulder,” said Campbell with a laugh.

He said Cianci’s archives not only tell the story of the politician’s public life, but of the one he lived behind closed doors.

“There are even family grocery bills in here form the 1970’s,” said Campbell. “So you could actually probably know what the Cianci family ate for dinner in October of 1975.”

Turchetta said his uncle had been looking at spaces in Providence to establish a library, a lifelong dream of Cianci’s that Turchetta now hopes to make a reality. He said it’s too soon to say when that public space would open, or where.

On Thursday, the Cianci Foundation will showcase some items from the archive at their scholarship awards ceremony. Turchetta said it’s also possible there will be a Cianci estate sale or auction in the future.