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Maine Historical Society



Brown Research Library

On this page:   Collections Overview  | Books  | Manuscript Collections  | Photographs  | Architectural Drawings  | Maps & Atlases  | Newspapers  | Databases, Indexes, & CDs

Since 1822, Maine Historical Society has been collecting materials about Maine. Featuring books, manuscripts, broadsides, maps, photographs and ephemera, the Library collections are used by historians, writers, educators, students and genealogists. Visiting the Library is truly a unique experience where you can see one–of–a–kind material about Maine's history and people. MHS works to collect and preserve these collections, and we have instituted policies and procedures to protect our holdings for the future. Please note: Library collections do not circulate.

Watch this video and get introduced to the Brown Research Library.

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium

Maine Historical Society is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium.

This collaboration of 18 major research libraries in New England includes the six state historical societies and five special collections libraries at Harvard, among others. It awards $5,000 stipends to up to 12 serious researchers to support a minimum of eight weeks' work in three or more of the member libraries, stressing research with original primary documents.

Please see the NERCF website for more information and application information.

Collections Overview

Patron looking at documents

Brown Research Library

The John Marshall and Alida Carroll Brown Research Library documents all aspects of Maine's social, economic, political and cultural history. The collections cover the entire state with particular strength for southern Maine. Of particular note are the personal papers of Maine's civic and business leaders, early proprietary, town and church records, shipping and maritime records, account books and business records, genealogical research collections, cartographic and land surveys, architectural and engineering drawings, photographs, prints, and broadsides.


library books

Search our book collection in Minerva

Over 100,000 printed books and pamphlets about Maine History and related subjects. Subject areas in addition to Maine history include general US history, particularly the periods of exploration through the Civil War; genealogy; architecture, decorative and fine arts; transportation (especially shipping and railroads); English local history; biographies; and 19th century literature.The Library also has a collection of rare books including Maine imprints and association copies and almost all of the published city directories of Maine towns.

Maine Historical Society has produced dozens of volumes relating to Maine history. With their wealth of narrative and documentary history, they are a rich resource for scholars and laymen alike. See Publications.

Manuscript Collections

Medical Recipe, 1700s

Medical Recipe, 1700s

The Brown Research Library houses many original sources such as diaries, correspondence, account books, scrapbooks, ships' logs, architectural and engineering drawings, as well as the personal and business papers of individuals and organizations. The collection contains an estimated 2 million pages, covering a period from the late 15th century to the present.

Highlights of the collection include:


boy with dog

Glass negative of boy with dog, Portland, 1927

Perhaps the largest in–state collection of Maine–related photographs available to the public is housed here. With approximately 140,000 items, the collection includes many forms of photography beginning with images created in the mid–19th century up to and including modern day photographs, albums, and digital images. Examples of the larger photograph holdings include the Portland Press Herald Glass Negative collection, the Central Maine Power Company collection, the Portland Company collection and the postcard collection. Many of our photographs can be viewed on the Maine Memory Network.

Architectural Drawings

Gulf Island Station, Central Maine Power

Gulf Island Station, Central Maine Power

Architectural drawings from the archive of the John Calvin Stevens firm of Portland architects, the Coombs firm of Lewiston, Eaton Tarbell of Bangor, and from over a dozen other Maine firms representing most Maine architects practicing from the mid–19th to the late–20th Century. Several of our architectural drawings can be viewed on the Maine Memory Network.

Maps & Atlases

Plan of Ruscohegon Alias Parker's Island [Georgetown], 1759

Plan of Ruscohegon Alias Parker's Island [Georgetown], 1759

Over 5,000 print and manuscript maps are housed at the Library. Included are early proprietors' maps including those of the Plymouth Company (Kennebec Company), the Proprietors of the Township of Brunswick (Pejepscot Proprietors), maps of the international boundary commissions, native American maps, the Debarres Atlases, school atlases, topographical maps, and nautical charts. Many of our maps can be viewed on the Maine Memory Network.


Falmouth Gazette, 1785

Falmouth Gazette, 1785

The newspaper collections at MHS are particularly strong for the 19th century. Special interest newspapers are available on topics such as temperance, abolition and agriculture. Most of the newspaper titles are available on microfilm and in original format. Whenever possible, microfilm versions are used in place of originals. Please be aware that some original titles may be off–site and will require at least 24 hours notice to retrieve.

Databases, Indexes, & CDs

Patrons using computer workstations in the library

Patrons using computer workstations in the library

Online Catalog

Maine Historical Society participates in Minerva – a state–wide integrated library system created by the Maine Info Net Project, in association with the Maine State Library. This database contains cataloging records for printed and manuscript materials including books, pamphlets, and maps. Currently, about two–thirds of MHS collections are represented in this catalog. The society is currently undergoing a conversion of its card catalog system into electronic format, with expected completion in late 2007. A card catalog is available in–house for items yet to appear in Minerva. Future plans include putting our finding aids to manuscript collections online.

Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network is a statewide digital museum created by the Maine Historical Society that enables historical societies, museums and libraries across the state to upload and share digital images, documents, and artifacts from their collections. You'll find over 45,000 items from over 270 organizations. Explore the online exhibits and the Maine history timeline.

MHS Collections Database

Search the collections database to see our museum objects, photographs, autograph letters, some architectural drawings, and newspapers.

Maine History, (publication)

Maine History, the only periodical devoted to scholarship on Maine history, is published by the Maine Historical Society in cooperation with the Department of History at the University of Maine.

Search past issues from Vol. 9 to present. Members Only
Search past issuesfrom Vol. 9 to 51 (2017) . Digital Commons
Download the index of articles in Vol. 9 through 51.
Order copies of articles.

Ancestry® Library Edition

The Ancestry Library Edition collection has thousands of databases including key collections such as U.S. Federal Census images and indexes from 1790 to 1940; the Map Center containing more than 1,000 historical maps; American Genealogical Biographical Index (over 200 volumes); Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage (over 150 volumes); The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1630; Social Security Death Index (updated monthly); WWI Draft Registration Cards; Federal Slave Narratives; and strong Civil War and Immigration collections. The Maine Historical Society's subscription includes European, Canadian and Australian Records. Indexes and original images are added on a constant basis. In the coming year, still more indexes and original images will be added to the new Immigration collection. Available in-library only. Made possible through the generous support of the Order of the First Families of Maine.

HeritageQuest™ Online
Complete U.S. Federal Census, 1790–1930

HeritageQuest Online, a ProQuest database, includes United States census records, full text periodicals and books, as well as Revolutionary War records and Freeman's Bank records. The 1790–1930 censuses are available to browse, with many years indexed for searching individuals. Available in-library only.

Proquest's Digital Sanborn Maps for Maine, 1867–1970

Sanborn maps are valuable historical tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, environmentalists and anyone who wants to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods, and you can now access these maps from the keyboard. This includes information such as the footprint of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. Available in-library only.

Access more than 110 million names and resources for the New England and New York areas. Includes Bible, cemetery, probate, military, and vital records and more. From the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the oldest and most respected genealogical organization in the country. Available in-library only.

Architectural Drawings Database

As the only major repository of architectural drawings in the state, we have developed the start of a searchable database to make accessible drawings at the project level. This database contains bibliographic records of the architectural drawings contained in three collections: the office archives of John Calvin Stevens, Wadsworth–Boston, and the Eaton W. Tarbell architectural firms. Searchable by many fields, one can look for specific project, client, architect, street, town, building type, date, or combination.

Currently, the database is only available at the library. Future plans include making this database web–accessible.

Obituary Database

This index to obituary scrapbooks was created through the hard work of devoted volunteers. It was originated in 1998 and contains entries for obituaries clipped from the Portland area newspapers, with more recent attention to other regions. The database is searchable by surname, name of spouse, date of death and town of residence. For obituaries prior to 1998, a card catalog is available at the library, providing an index to obituaries collection as early as 1880. While the obituary collection at MHS is not comprehensive, it is a wonderful resource for historians and genealogists alike. Currently, the database is only available at the library. Future plans include making this database web–accessible.

Members Only Databases

The Maine Historical Society offers a number of databases searchable remotely for members of the society, including the above mentioned Maine History. Members will be asked for their username and password when accessing this content. Search online Members Only.


We have about 50 commercially–produced CDs on various history and genealogy topics. Examples include the US Census indexes, ships' passenger lists, Irish valuations (a kind of census or enumeration), Official Records of the Civil War, and many others.

Ring's Bibliographic Index

The locally–produced "Ring's Index to Maine Notables," is a union index to about 35 biographical dictionaries of Mainers. Currently, the database is only available at the library. Future plans include making this database web–accessible.