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Arts Department, Special Collections

Introductory guide to special collections in fine arts, music, photography, prints & drawings.

Digitized Collections

Many digitized materials from the Arts Department's collections are available in two repositories: Digital Commonwealth and Internet Archive. Although a large amount of our collections have not yet been digitized, both databases are continually updated as collections become digitized. Read more detailed information about each repository below. 

Digital Commonwealth

Digital Commonwealth is a database that provides digital images, image data, and, in some cases, downloads of high-resolution files directly from the database. This resource is the best place to start searching for digitized materials from the Fine Arts, Photography, and Prints & Drawings collections.

  • To search for specific images, works by particular artists, or to browse and get to know digitized collections, visit the Digital Commonwealth Entry Page for Boston Public Library.
  • All BPL holdings can be searched at the top of the entry page using the search box labeled "Search this institution's collections."
  • To search within individual collections, scroll down to "Digital Collections" and select a specific collection. *Please note that collection sets are organized alphabetically, by first name.*

Click here for general search instructions.

Internet Archive

Internet Archive is a database containing digitized versions of library materials from Boston Public Library as well as many other libraries throughout the world. This resource is a good place to start searching for digitized music materials as well as historical publications relating to music and fine arts (such as books, journals, etc.).

Click here for general search instructions.

Additional Help

For more information, further questions, or assistance with using Digital Commonwealth or Internet Archive, please contact arts@bpl.org.