Archives & Photos

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Photo Sleuth

This image comes from the Thomas E. Walsh Collection (#75). Walsh is best known for his role in promoting aviation and developing the airport in Kent County, however he was heavily involved in charitable organizations as well. This photo is dated August 22, 1951 and one could assume that it is a groundbreaking. If you know any of the clergy or what event, please contact us and let us know!


The archives contain over 360 collections, including more than a million photographs and negatives, as well as original letters, business documents, videos, and other types of data related to area families, businesses & organizations. The archival collections are secured in a temperature & humidity controlled storage area.

Finding Aids

Over 420 finding aids are available for browsing the archives of the Grand Rapids Public Library. A finding aid is a description of an archival collection, usually containing a history of the person or organization that produced the collection and an inventory of its contents.


Over a million local photographic images document pivotal events and daily life in West Michigan during the past one hundred fifty years.

Digital Collections

View our online Digital Collections to see photographs from the archives including photos from the Robinson Photo Studio, the Morris Collection and more.

Photo Essays

Photo Essays - Series of photos highlighting items from our collection.

Robinson Index

The Robinson Studio Collection (#125) is the largest archival collection held by the Grand Rapids History & Special Collections Department Archives. It contains more than 950,000 black & white negatives, with some accompanying photographic prints, containing Grand Rapids views, news, businesses & peoples from the 1930's to the 1960's. A sampling of this collection is available in our Digital Collections.

Some indexing of this collection is available.

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Web Resources

Archival Vendors


Due to the time and staff resources involved in researching answers to local history , genealogy, and furniture questions, some fees apply to certain types of requests.

Family history queries are answered by the Western Michigan Genealogical Society research committee for a fee of $15.00 per hour of research.

Michigan and Grand Rapids history research questions are answered by the Local History Department staff at a rate of $30.00 per hour. Copying charges are extra. Indexed obituaries are charged as follows: no charge for the first requested obituary, with any request beyond one obituary to be charged based on the library's research rate of $30.00 per hour. Non-indexed obituaries are charged at the hourly research rate.

Contact Information

The Local History Department may be reached by phone at 616-988-5400. Also, see hours and directions. Requests for both the Western Michigan Genealogy Society and the Local History Department may be sent here: Contact the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Department

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