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Heritage Quest

Special Collections & Archives

Enjoy browsing our digital Archives at this link! — and here, too!

Portland Public Library is the major 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.

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, 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.

Open hours (beginning on 19 April 2022) :
Monday: 2pm – 6pm
Tuesday and Wednesday: 10am – 2pm
Thursday and Friday: 1pm – 5pm
Closed Saturday & Sunday

Limit to 4 patrons at a time.
Visits 30 minutes per person.
One microfilm reader-printer is available.
Masks required at all times.


How are you weathering the challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic?

We’re interested in preserving your thoughts, images, art, writings and more! Click HERE for more information!
*Very Special Thanks to the Maine State Library, for hosting and funding our Omeka page

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.

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Marquee of the State Theater

Portland Contemporary Archive is Portland Public Library’s digital archive where we collect stories from you, our community members, about how COVID-19 is impacting your life. Browse the collection and learn about how YOU can submit!

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Here are a few sites that accentuate photographic media, their many different processes, and how they’ve been used since the mid-19th century. Archival work, such as we do in the Portland Room at PPL, brings together the interpretation and cataloguing of photo media, understanding historic image-creation processes, and their preservation.

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For your viewing enjoyment, here are some major library collections of digitized rare books and prints.


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PPL offers many sources for your genealogy research, via the Library’s Portland Room. In addition to books, periodicals, and microfilms- here is a list of web sites you can freely access from outside the Library.

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journal writing

Many write to preserve the present — for future readers, perhaps to pass along to later generations — or even just to re-read one’s journeys later on.

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Greater Portland’s only writing group dedicated to journal and memoir writing! Journalists are encouraged to produce creative, reflective writing through the use of autobiographic and historic elements in PPL’s collections, including memoirs, archives, journalism, letter correspondence, & the history of writing in material culture.

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Children’s Special Collection books

The Children’s Special Collection in the Portland Room comprises over 600 classic children’s books, most of which were published in the 19th- and early 20th-centuries. These books provide an overview of the subject matter and period book bindings. Many are beautifully illustrated by notable artists such as Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, C.E. Brook, Kate Greenaway, and others.

For additional, online reading, the digitized Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature offers a vast, open-source collection of more than 115,000 volumes published in the United States and Great Britain from the mid-1600s to present day.

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.

Related Items in our Catalog »
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.

Related Items in our Catalog »
Related Online Resources »
Up Next at the Library:
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Technology Tutoring2:30pm - 4:00pm
Spotlight Lecture: Reza Jalali and Phuc Tran talk about "Dear Maine" at Bunker Brewing6:30pm - 7:30pm
Spotlight Lecture: Reza Jalali and Phuc Tran talk about “Dear Maine” at Bunker Brewing
From the PPL blog:
Celebrations of Black History
A listing of events and resources regarding Black History.   More »
Control Those Porcupines: UMaine Extension Bulletins
Some highlights from the library's collection of bulletins from UMaine Extension Service.   More »
Contact the Librarian
Abraham A. Schechter   Email »
Special Collections Librarian & Archivist
207-871-1700 x747
More Contacts »
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