A vintage newspaper advertisement from Providence Public Library Special Collections

Resources for Artists

PPL’s collections are full of useful materials for artists and designers: books and media that you can check out with your library card, and reference books and historical collections that you can use on-site.

Our Collections

Our Special Collections have historical and one-of-a-kind items that can serve as inspiration, information, and source material: illustrated children’s books, woodcuts, handwritten letters, old newspapers, type specimens, historic magazines, etchings, photographs, scrimshaw, broadsides, and much more. These materials can be used in our Reading Room, and you’re welcome to take notes, make sketches, and take photographs.

Our general collections are also full of illustrated books, how-to guides, books of photography, art history, music scores and songbooks, magazines, and more-- and with your library card, you can check out most of these, and even request titles from other public libraries throughout Rhode Island.

Research Appointments

If you’re looking for information on a specific topic, a reference librarian can help you
navigate our materials and find applicable articles, books, images, music, DVDs, and online resources; they also can direct you to materials of interest at other libraries or museums. Just stop by the Information Services desk or give us a call whenever the library is open.

If you’re interested in historic materials, visit Special Collections during our weekly open hours or make an appointment. We can help with both general inquiries (i.e. “I’m writing a book and need to know about farm life in the 1800s” and more specific ones (i.e. “I’m looking for etchings of dogs”).

Creative or visual research can be slow, in part because materials have traditionally been cataloged to facilitate topic-based research. Your keys to success are to give yourself plenty of time and to talk to librarians who know the collections well!

Schedule An Appointment

A Guide To Archives For Artists and Makers

Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit

Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit is a comic book conceived of and printed by the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI, working in collaboration with artist Jeremy Ferris, who created the storyline, illustrations, and text.

Providence describes itself as the “Creative Capital”, and we work with a great number of artists and designers at our library. Many of our creative researchers (and researchers in general) are intimidated by the process of finding things in our Special Collections. Archives have their own vocabularies and rules, and it can be a scary world for the uninitiated. This comic book was developed as a guide to demystify archival research for artists and other makers. We wanted it to be specific enough that it could help our users, but general enough to be applicable to collections across the country.

Librarians and archivists enjoy helping people and want their collections to be more accessible, but don’t always know how to reach or work with creative researchers. We’re hoping that this comic book can be a bridge helping artists and archivists to find each other and get down to the fun and messy work of research!