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Special Collections & Archives

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, 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 (as of 6 March 2023) :
Monday: 10am – 2pm
Tuesday: 2pm – 6pm
Wednesday & Thursday: 10am – 2pm
Friday: 1pm – 5pm
Closed Saturday & Sunday

Masks strongly recommended.


Digital Archives

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!

Portland Contemporary Archive

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.

Flat files open to reveal an historic wood cut depicting the Old Port of Portland Maine

Please join us for a roundtable visit with some of the treasures from Portland Public Library’s Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Room. We’ll look at and talk about rare books, maps, prints, and manuscripts. You’ll also be introduced to the department itself, and how the story of the Greater Portland area is documented and preserved through these archival materials.

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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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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, to pass along to later generations, or even just to re-read one’s journeys later on.


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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.

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Detail of Monument Square from Richards Atlas

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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Contact the Librarian
Abraham A. Schechter   Email »
Special Collections Librarian & Archivist
207-871-1700 x747
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