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About the Portland Room

Portland Public Library is the major research and preservation resource for the history of the Greater Portland Maine region, contiguous New England, and book arts. 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.

We collect, preserve, and provide access to Portland-related special collections. We conserve archival artifacts and offer an array of documentation about the life of Portland including its residents, activities, businesses, and the physical attributes of the city. We manage the Portland Room, located on Level 2 in the Downtown Library, 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.

Portland Room photo


Among the Portland Room’s rare books are items from 19th and 20th century Portland publishers, notably comprehensive collections printed by the Southworth and Anthoensen Presses, Thomas Bird Mosher Press, Cuala Press, and Shagbark Press. The Portland Room is also home to an extraordinary collection dedicated to book arts and artisanry reference.

You can also tap into our genealogical source materials, which include the electronic databases Ancestry Library Edition (in-house use only) and HeritageQuest Online (access anywhere with your Library card number), as well as complete sets of Portland City Directories, microfilmed Maine Vital Records up to 1955, and microfilmed Portland newspapers.

The Portland Room also offers the Maine News Index and Jordan Index of Maine newspaper abstracts dating back to the 1780s. Portland Room staff are available for research assistance at 207-871-1700 x747 or


Portland Public Library’s Digital Commons is an open-access online portal featuring digitized materials that represent and preserve the history and community life of Portland, Maine. Here you will find digitized access to the Casco Bay Weekly, Maine News Index (abstracts only), Portland Press Herald Still Film Negatives Collection, Peaks Island Archives, City of Portland Documents, and more.

The Local History Collections within Digital Commons include the Children’s Theatre of Maine, Jewish Oral History Collections, Portland Postcards, Restaurant Menus, The Maine Broadcaster, and much more.

In addition, the 1924 Portland Tax Records photographic database, which was made in the Portland Room from original images stored at Portland City Hall, is available on the Maine Memory Network (hosted by Maine Historical Society).

We are continually adding to these digital collections of maps, photographs, prints, periodicals, audio files, and various printed texts, so check back often!


Genealogical research related to Portland area family histories is among the most frequent uses of Portland Room materials. Our genealogy sources are focused on the Greater Portland region, though we also continue to develop our collection of town histories throughout Maine, printed vital records, and the best in online resources.

The Portland Room staff 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 Contemporary Archive is an ongoing digital archive of stories from you, our community members, about life in and around Portland, Maine. We’re interested in preserving your thoughts, images, art, writings and more for future generations!

We invite you to browse this archive and also to contribute to it and explain or show your daily life through poetry, letters, diary entries, original artwork, audio files, doodles or comics. Sharing our stories will keep us socially connected and preserve them for the future.



The new exhibit in the Portland Room celebrates two centuries of printing in Portland. The photographs and published examples on display are drawn from our archival collections. Printing and bookbinding were integral to the city’s economy, and Exchange Street was our “printers’ row” in the 19th century.



Portland Fire Dept’s 250th, commemorated with Special Collections Exhibit in the Portland Room, PPL.



Jewish Oral History Project

The library’s Portland Room includes 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.

Goodwin and Richards Historical Atlases Online

Detail of Monument Square from Richards Atlas

Richards Atlas, detail – Monument Square

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.

Learn more »

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5 Monument Square
Portland Maine 04101

(207) 871-1700 x747

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Up Next at the Library:
Getting to Know the Portland Room6:00pm - 7:30pm
Portland Room
From the PPL blog:
“Printed in Portland” exhibit in the Portland Room
Printed in Portland was an exhibit that accentuated our city's printing presses.   More »
Isolating Together : A Public Archive
How are you weathering the challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic? We're creating an archive for this!   More »
Journaling in the Library !
PPL's Journaling group will meet monthly in the Portland Room, on the 3rd Weds. from 5:30pm-7pm.   More »
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