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Portland History

Portland Public Library is the top research and preservation resource for the history of the Greater Portland area. Based in the Portland Room, our special collections are rich with printed books, archival documents, manuscripts, local periodicals, maps, photographs, and directories that showcase the history and development of the city of Portland.

The Portland History Team collects, preserves, and provides access to Portland-related special collections.  The team conserves archival artifacts and offers an array of documentation about the life of Portland including its residents, activities, businesses, and the physical attributes of the city.  The Portland History Team manages the Portland Room, which is a welcoming research space, and is an active community partner with local researchers, educators, archivists, historians, and educational institutions serving all age groups to preserve and tell Portland’s narrative history.

Children’s Theatre of Maine Archive

Launched in 1924 by the Junior League of Portland to bring “good theatre to children,” the Children’s Theatre of Maine is America’s oldest continuing children’s theatre. Drawing the attention of Bette Davis and Gary Merrill, the Children’s Theatre gained notoriety in the 1950s. Former CTM actors include Linda Lavin, Judd Nelson, Tony Shalhoub, and Andrea Martin. The Theatre archives are now available for research in the Portland Room and some pieces are also in our Digital Commons online collection.

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Jewish Oral History Project

The library’s Portland Room holds a special collection of recordings of interviews with Portland’s elder Jewish community members. The first set, made by Konnilyn G. Feig in 1976 and 1977, comprises the Portland Jewish Oral History Project and includes the original recordings and print transcripts. In partnership with the comprehensive Documenting Maine Jewry project, the Library also provides online access to an ongoing collection of contemporary interviews made by the local Jewish community itself.

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Related Online Resources »
Portland Press Herald Still Film Negative Collection

The Portland Public Library manages the 1936-2003 photographic still film negative collection  from the Portland Press Herald, an immense documentation of Portland’s history through the lens of the daily newspaper’s photography. PPL is conserving and indexing the collection of 800,000 images and selectively scanning them for photo essays on the Life of the Library Blog, the Main Library’s “Aerial Portland” exhibit, and our Digital Commons online collection.

Goodwin and Richards Historical Atlases Online

Two historic atlases of Portland are now available online in our Digital Commons collection. Goodwin Atlas: 1882 covers revaluation plans of Portland produced by City Engineer William A. Goodwin in 1882. The 82 large-format plates show lots, streets, addresses, property owners, and more during the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1866 and 1900 when the city boundaries extended.

Richards Atlas: 1914 contains 24 double-page color maps of Portland and South Portland, documenting property lots, buildings, owners’ names, electric and steam railways, sewer lines, water mains, etc.

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Up Next at the Library:
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Oct02
Toddler Time at Burbank10:15am - 11:00am
Toddler Time at Burbank
Oct02
Veterans Legal Clinic 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Veterans Legal Clinic
From the PPL blog:
Choose Civility and Constitution Week!
Portland Public Conversations and Choose Civility program overview   More »
Munjoy Observer (1962-1965) added to Digital Commons
Portland Room has digitized its collection of Munjoy Observer newsletters.   More »
Woman’s Literary Union on Digital Commons
Woman's Literary Union ephemera and pamphlets added to Digital Commons   More »
Contact the team leader
Abraham Schechter   Email »
Portland History Librarian
207-871-1700 x747
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