Digital Commonwealth

New Bedford Free Public Library

or
New Bedford Free Public Library
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, the Bedford Library Society, the New Bedford Athenaeum, and the New Bedford Lyceum.

Envisioned by librarian Robert C. Ingraham as a permanent repository for local history and art, the Special Collections department emerged 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 historic objects used for research, exhibit and educational purposes.