A view of the Special Collections Department in the Providence Public Library

Historical Collections

Thanks to a century and a half of collecting, the library is home to tens of thousands of historic books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, maps and other artifacts representing over four thousand years of human history and culture from around the world.

You can learn more about our collections in the sections below, but we encourage you to contact us and set up a visit, whether you're researching a topic for a class, publication or personal interest. Some of our materials are also available online. Many of our archival collections are described in finding aids available via RIAMCO (RI Archival and Manuscript Collections Online).

Special Collections is currently closed due to library renovations. Access will resume in July 2019.

You can access some of our collections online via ProvLibDigital.org. Some of our most frequently-requested Rhode Island history materials can be accessed in other libraries during this time, including:

Providence Journal

  • Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center
  • Providence College, Phillips Memorial Library
  • Rhode Island College, Adams Library
  • CCRI Library
  • Roger Williams University Library

City Directories, Atlases & Maps

  • Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center
  • Rhode Island State Archives