Image of the SS Rhode Island

Download thousands of free images from Providence Public Library

October 13, 2016

PPL adds thousands of historic images that chronicle RI history to its Digital Library, making them available to the public for free

Spark some memories! Providence Public Library (PPL) is excited to announce that thousands of photographs documenting Rhode Island landscape and life are now available for free high-resolution download from its digital library

The Rhode Island Photograph Collection features more than 6,500 photographs of people, places and events from across the state from the mid-19th century through the 20th century. The photographs document life from Woonsocket to Westerly and all points in between. The collection reflects nearly a century of photograph donations from a wide variety of donors.

As a public library, PPL is committed to increasing access for free to as wide an audience as possible. While the RI Photograph Collection has always been available to researchers who visit the Library, now anyone, anywhere can access and download high resolution images to make use of them for personal interest, creative endeavors and scholarly pursuits.  “The Rhode Island Photograph Collection has always been one of our most highly utilized resources in our Rhode Island Collection. Now that the collection is fully digitized and searchable online, researchers are able to find what they need much more easily. It’s exciting to see photographs shared on social media and used for a wide variety of interests. People worry that digitizing will mean that nobody has a reason to come to the library, but in fact, I’m seeing more researchers use the collection than ever before,” says Kate Wells, PPL’s Rhode Island Collection Librarian.

Digitization of the Rhode Island Photograph Collection was​ partially funded by the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services through a grant to Providence Public Library, which is designated as the state’s reference research center (, as part of ongoing efforts to share historical collections of statewide significance.  “Putting these fabulous resources online makes it possible for all Rhode Islanders to easily access items that document our state’s rich history,” said Karen Mellor, Chief of the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services. is Rhode Island’s latest growing searchable digital repository offering the public free access to thousands of historical and significant resources. ​ The recent addition of more than 6,500 images of the Rhode Island Photograph Collection nearly doubles what was previously available in the digital library. This site creates one searchable database for researchers to search across several of our individual special collections by keyword, date, geographic area and more. We encourage the images to be shared and used as the public wishes​!​

“Bringing PPL’s amazing special collections to people digitally, when historically users had to come to the physical collections, is a major step forward and one of our key goals. These resources will become an integral part of our users’ library experience,” said Library Executive Director Jack Martin.

Since its founding in 1875, the private, non-profit Providence Public Library (PPL) has served the City of Providence and State of Rhode Island, growing and innovating in response to the changing needs of its community, often recognized regionally and nationally for providing award-winning public library services. As the state’s premiere personal learning institution, the Library is focused on building and strengthening our core mission and services for all Rhode Islanders — expanding our reach and fostering critical connections with individuals and groups statewide — to nurture and enhance the educational, historical and cultural fabric of Rhode Island.