Special Collections


Established in 1852, the New Bedford Free Public Library is among the earliest free municipal libraries in the United States. The core of the library’s original holdings contained books, periodicals and other materials purchased from the New Bedford Social Library (founded in 1807), which had assimilated the collections of the Encyclopedia Society, Bedford Library Society, Athenaeum and Lyceum.

Envisioned by librarian Robert Ingraham as a permanent repository for local history and art, the Special Collections Department was created to preserve for future generations those materials of historical and/or aesthetic value. Since 1866, the library has amassed extensive holdings of printed works, manuscripts, graphics, fine art and objects used for research, exhibit and educational purposes.

The art collection is on public view at the Main Library and also showcased in City Gallery exhibits at the New Bedford Art Museum.

Access to Special Collections is provided on the 3rd floor, Main Library. Hours may change due to staffing; please contact the department to confirm the schedule.

If your research needs require dedicated assistance, we suggest contacting the department in advance of your visit.

To see if we have the item(s) you are seeking, visit our e-catalog.

For departmental reference assistance, visit Ask a Librarian / nbmhistory@sailsinc.org

Paul A. Cyr History Room
Monday & Tuesday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Wednesday & Thursday: 1:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday & Saturday: Limited hours

(508) 991-6276 / jgoodman@sailsinc.org

Art Room
Monday & Thursday: 12:00pm – 9:00pm

Tuesday & Wednesday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Friday & Saturday: Limited hours

(508) 979-1787 / jhodson@sailsinc.org