Special Collections

The Original Collection of 751 titles has grown into Circulating and Special Collections containing more than 200,000 volumes.

Our diverse collections reflect the continuing tastes and interests of our membership community since its inception in 1747.

The Special Collections Department at the Redwood Library includes books, periodicals, manuscripts, photographs, maps, and atlases as well as paintings, sculpture, and other decorative arts, ranging in date from 1400 B.C.E. to the present. There are approximately 49,000 volumes of books and periodicals in the collection covering all subject areas, with particular strengths in Newport history, the decorative arts, and the eighteenth century.


As both a membership and community learning center, the Redwood Library & Athenaeum balances the diverse needs and reading preferences of its visitors and patrons with the historic charge of collecting and retaining materials of educational and lasting value. Positioned as a unique resource, the Redwood holds and acquires materials not widely available in local public and academic libraries. The Redwood’s Special Collection holdings are open to members, students, researchers, and the general public by appointment.


Explore Our Collections

Highlights from some of our rare book collections, archival & manuscript collections, fine art collections, and furniture and decorative arts collections can be seen by clicking the buttons below.


For More Information

To learn how to search the various collections, schedule a reference appointment, request permission to publish an image, or schedule a tour of Special Collections material, please visit the tabs below.

How to Search the Redwood Catalog


The Redwood Library’s rare book holdings can be searched in our online catalog and in our in-house card catalog. Please be aware, our card catalog may not be completely up to date. If you only search the card catalog, you are missing newer titles; if you only search the online catalog, you are missing older titles. If you are unfamiliar with the card catalog, please don’t hesitate to ask our front desk staff for assistance.


On-Line Catalog Tips and Tricks for Special Collections:

• Visit the Rare Book Collections page of our website for more information on individual Special Collections.

• Use advanced search to limit by date, format and collections.

• Browse similar items in the catalog through the subjects, authors, donors, and other linked data found at the top of any record.

• If you would like an appointment to view any of the items in the collection, please contact our reference staff at reference@redwoodlibrary.org.

How to Search for Archival & Manuscript Collections


Finding aids for all processed collections can be found online via RIAMCO.org. RIAMCO, Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online, is a state-wide consortium of academic and research libraries in which the Redwood Library participates. If you have any questions about using RIAMCO or accessing any of our archival and manuscript collections, please contact our library staff at the reference email below.


RIAMCO Tips & Tricks:

• Visit the Archives & Manuscripts page of our website to learn about some of the highlights from our Special Collections.

• Using the “limit my results” tools to the left of the page, limit the search results by “institution” to just the Redwood Library & Athenaeum.

• Additionally, use the other “limit my results” tools to further limit your search or use the advanced search page.

How to Search our Fine Art, Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Photograph Collections


Our fine art, decorative arts, furniture, and photograph collections are accessible online through PastPerfect Online. This site contains records for our collections of portraits, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts, furniture, and a selection of our photographs of Newport. The rest of the photographs are being processed and will be uploaded to PastPerfect Online when the records are complete. If you have any questions about how to use the site or if you require any additional information about any of our collections, please contact our library staff at the reference email below. Personal photos of Special Collections material are allowed for research use only. If you require an image of something from our collections for usage in a publication or lecture, please view the tab on our Image Reproduction and Usage policies and fees.


PastPerfect Online Tips & Tricks:

• Visit the Fine Art Collections and Furniture & Decorative Arts pages of our website to learn about some of the highlights from our Special Collections.

• Use the advanced search to search for a word or phrase in a particular category, rather than in the whole record, as well as search People and Creator records.

• Click the Browse Images tab to explore the collection without a specific search term. To view a new set of images, click the Browse Images button again to refresh.

• There are catalog buttons for Photos and Objects in the collection as another way to narrow your search.

Digitized Collections on Internet Archive


In 2011, the Redwood Library began a collaboration with the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. The goal was to have each institution select unique materials from their collection that shed light on life in early Colonial America. The documents were then scanned using the state-of-the-art facilities at Brown University. Through the generosity of the donors who helped fund this project, 41 volumes of the Redwood’s most valuable books and manuscripts are now available to researchers around the world through the Internet Archive. Visit the homepage of the Redwood Library’s digitized collections on Internet Archive by clicking on the first link below. Click on any of the following images to go straight to some of our individual collections that have been digitized as a part of this project. If you have any questions about these items, or if you would like to view any of these in person at the Redwood Library, please contact library staff by emailing our reference email below.

Reference Services


The Redwood Library welcomes reference requests from members of the library as well as non-members. Researchers may contact our library staff by email, at reference@redwoodlibrary.org or by phone (401-847-0292) to request basic information and schedule reference appointments for further research. Please allow up to one week for librarians to respond to your request.


Reference appointments are required for research visits and for all access to Special Collections. These appointments can be scheduled during our open hours of 11-4 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.


Photocopies are permitted for items from the general circulating and reference collections. Staff must assist with any requests to photocopy Special Collections material and we reserve the right to deny requests for photocopies of fragile materials. Personal photos of Special Collections material are allowed for research use only. If you require an image of something from our collections for usage in a publication or lecture, please view the tab on our Image Reproduction and Usage policies and fees.


Researchers may want to search the on-line catalog before visiting the library. There are approximately 66,000 titles in the online catalog, including all of our Newport-related titles and the Original 1747 Collection. Researchers should keep in mind that a large portion of our collection is found only in our card catalog in the library. Patrons may want to search in both catalogs to find all of the works that may be relevant to their research before scheduling an appointment. View the various search tabs above to find all of our on-line search tools.


The Redwood Library staff is glad to help all researchers conduct research using both our on-line catalog, in-house card catalog, finding aids, and additional resources. We will be glad to help scholars of all levels find materials in both the circulating and special collections. Patrons conducting introductory or secondary research may use the Redwood’s rich circulating collections with material dating back to the 1870s. Patrons conducting primary research requiring the use of the Special Collections will be invited to view the material in our Slocum Scholars’ Reading Room.

Image Reproduction & Usage 


The Redwood Library and Athenaeum offers digital reproductions of items in our collections for research, publication, and commercial use.

  • To submit your request and determine the potential fee, please email mfarias@redwoodlibrary.org with the information requested below.
  • Not all usage and reproduction requests can be accommodated due to possible violation of copyright laws, material format, or preservation concerns.
  • Orders are subject to Rhode Island state tax unless a non-profit identification number is given.
  • Prepayment is required for all requests. Upon receipt of payment, the order will be completed as soon as is possible. Orders requiring new photography may take longer.
  • Permission is granted for one time use only. Material may not be used in any other editions, language or format.
  • Each additional future use requires an additional request and fee.
  • It is strictly prohibited to alter, resell, duplicate, or publish any image from the Redwood Library and Athenaeum without prior written consent.
  • All reproductions must carry the following credit line (either next to each reproduction or in a separate credits section):
    Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, Rhode Island
    [Name of specific collection or donor, when applicable.]
  • Failure to credit properly may result in denial of future request of permission.
  • The applicant will supply the Redwood Library and Athenaeum with a copy of the final publication in which the image is reproduced.


Please include the following information in your request:

Requesting User: Name/Organization/Tax Exemption Number/Address/City/State/Zip Code/Email

Requested Image: Title/Author, Artist, Creator/Publisher, Producer/ID Number, Call Number

Intended Usage: What are you planning to use this image for? Personal Research or License to publish in a: Book/Magazine/Lecture/Website/Film/Exhibit/Other

Please provide us with any and all information available on the publication or production in which the image will be used.

Service Requested:

Image reproduction (for personal research purposes only)

Image reproduction and usage (for publication and commercial use)

Technical Information:

Digital File: TIFF/JPEG/PDF

DPI (Image Quality): 300 dpi/600 dpi (if possible)


If you have any questions about image reproduction and usage, please email mfarias@redwoodlibrary.org.

Special Collections Tours


Group tours of Special Collections material are available by reservation only. To accommodate the interests of specific groups, tours can be tailored to focus on various aspects of the library, such as its art, literature, history, architecture, and any of our special collections. Please contact redwood@redwoodlibrary.org for reservations and fee schedule.

Contact Us

If you are interested in scheduling a reference appointment or are
seeking assistance with a research question please contact
our library staff for assistance at

reference@redwoodlibrary.org or call 401-847-0292