The Collection

The Special Collections, located on the second floor of the Library, offers researchers information on Portsmouth and Seacoast Local History and Genealogy.

While the collection is primarily focused on materials relating to the city of Portsmouth, it also includes some materials related to other cities and towns in Rockingham County, as well as Strafford County, NH; York County, ME; and Essex County, MA.

The collection includes published books, city documents (tax records, annual reports, etc.), city directories, vital records (birth, marriage and death indexes), maps, art work, photographs, historical newspapers and ephemera.

Special Collections staff maintain a vertical file of historical topics, places and names. These files include materials such as pamphlets, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, manuscripts, family genealogies, photographs, postcards, ephemera, and more.

Other Collections

In addition to the collections we have digitized and shared on this site, the Portsmouth Public Library houses a number of unique collections which we hope to digitize in the future, such as:

World War II Records — This collection of 20 files was compiled by the Portsmouth War Records Committee during the World War II years. It includes reports (business, club, and organizations), photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, posters and pamphlets.

Art Collections – These include watercolors of Europe by Sarah Haven Foster (1827-1900), several works by Susan Ricker Knox (1875?-1959), and notably, two paintings by Russell Cheney (1881-1945), among other artists whose works are owned by the library.

Portsmouth Public Library Institutional Archive — This collection includes papers, memorabilia, and ephemera related to the library since its founding in 1881.

The Collection is open to the public for general use during all regular library hours. The Special Collections and Reference staff is available to assist with guiding you through the collection.

Digitization Projects

With the North End House History Project the library staff began experimenting with the digital process and open source software. The goal, as with most such projects, was to increase accessibility to the collections, while protecting the integrity of the original items. Our hope, as we continue to identify interesting items and digitize them, is to also create a dialogue with the Portsmouth community about our shared local history. Please do use the commenting feature to share memories and facts about the items.

Digitization Project staff

A special thanks to the incredible Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science interns, and our generous Library Volunteers, for their assistance scanning, entering data, linking images, and creating pdfs!


Visit the Terms of Use and Copyright Information page to read about our digital exhibits policies.

Contact Us

The Staff of the Portsmouth Public Library welcomes any feedback pertaining to this project. We are also interested in hearing from you if you have materials you might like to share. Feel free to email any questions you may have to the project team or contact us by phone by calling: 603-766-1720.