An old proverb states that "the eyes are the windows into the soul." A genealogy corollary is that "a photo is a window into the lives of your ancestors."
I love old photos, whether they are portraits of my ancestors or historical photos for the period when they lived. And it is important to a complete research that one attempts to understand the environment that surrounds our ancestors' lives if one wants to truly appreciate what they went through.
So where can they be found? Obviously the best resource is our own photo albums and those that our relatives possess. But what about other resources? Many archives, historical societies, libraries and genealogical societies have collections of old photos. And in the past few years there has been a massive movement towards making these historical photo collections available online. Some have search capabilities where you can actually put in a surname or a location, name of a building or historical event and find what is available.
For the state of Rhode Island, what collections are available for you to browse and/or search online? Here is a list of sites to start with. Please feel free to add in the comments other online resources that you might be aware of in the state.
Please be aware that there may be very strict rules regarding downloading or other use of the images that you may find. Copyright and other legal protections may be in force. Make sure that you read the limitations of use for any image that you find in these collections and wish to download and/or copy. It is your responsibility to adhere to the rules for all of these collections.
Please note that links to these sites may change in the future. The author (me) will not be constantly checking and updating these links, so if you find a broken link, please use your favorite search engine to locate the new link.
(Updated December, 2020; recently added links are in BOLD)
- Brown University Portrait Collection
- Brown University Library Collections
- Images of Brown
- Jamestown Historical Society - Jamestown
- Johnson & Wales Univ - Culinary Arts Museum - Providence
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs - Rhode Island
- Little Compton Historical Society - Little Compton
- National Archives - Digital Photograph Collections
- Newport History
- Newport Houses on the Point Photos
- Newport Public Library Historical Pictures
- North Kingstown Free Library Photo Collection
- North Kingstown Free Library
- Pawtucket Historic Photos
- Pawtucket Library Photo Collections
- Penny Postcards from Rhode Island
- Providence College Digital Collections
- Providence Historical Photo Albums
- Providence Public Library - Image Collection
- Providence Public Library - Photo Collections
- Providence Public Library Digital Collections
- Providence Vintage Photos
- Redwood Library and Athenaeum - Newport
- Rhode Island Ancient Faces
- Rhode Island College Image Gallery
- Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Collections
- Rhode Island Dead Fred
- Rhode Island Historical Society Online Exhibits
- Rhode Island History Vintage Photos
- Rhode Island Latino History Collections
- Rhode Island Old Family Photos
- Rhode Island Photo Exhibits
- Rhode Island State Digital Archives
- Rhode Island, DP.LA Photos
- Rhode Island, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives
- Salve Regina University Archives Photographs
- Smithfield Historic Images
- Smithsonian Images
- South Kingstown Public Library Digital Collections
- Steamship Historical Society of America - Warwick
- The Point Association of Newport Photo Albums
- Tiverton Historical Society Photos
- University of Rhode island Photos
- University of Rhode Island Historic Textile and Costume Collection Photographs
- Warwick Digital History Project
- Warwick Historical Society - Historical Photos
- Westerly Library & Wilcox Park Photos
- Woonsocket Historical Photos
- Woonsocket Library Images of Rhode Island
For historic photos from other states as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!
For other Free Rhode Island Links, click on the category of interest: