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Digital Collections Blog Logo

In 2018, the Miami-Dade Public Library System's Digital Collections began the journey of scanning the thousands of historically important items housed within its special collections, from photographic negatives and slides to scrapbooks and rare books to framed and unframed artwork. We are committed to uploading these items so the community can view them from anywhere, anytime.


A Look Back at Fourth of July Celebrations in Miami-Dade County


July 4, 1776, marks the day when the Declaration of Independence was adopted – a day that we now recognize as the federal holiday, Independence Day. The Fourth of July symbolizes the United States' commitment to liberty, democracy and the pursuit of happiness. In Miami-Dade County, this day has long been celebrated with vibrant parades and community events.

Exploring the Miami-Dade Art in Public Places Digital Collection: A Collaboration Between the Library and Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs


Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places (APP) is a program by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs that serves the community by commissioning artists for art installations dedicated to enriching the public environment and preserving and enhancing the artistic and civic pride of our County. Established in 1973, Art in Public Places has acquired or commissioned over 1,000 pieces of art across diverse locations in Miami-Dade, including Miami International Airport, PortMiami, Zoo Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, several parks, and of course, our libraries.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Surrounded Islands


Christo Vladimirov Javacheff (Bulgaria, 1935-2020) and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon (Morocco, 1935-2009), also known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, were an internationally renowned married couple of visual artists, known for their temporal, monumental large-scale environmental artworks, often involving the wrapping of landmarks, buildings and landscapes. In Miami-Dade County, their most iconic and majestic work came to life on May 7, 1983, titled Surrounded Islands

Celebrating the Legacy of Margarita Cano (1932 - 2024)


In the realm of Miami's cultural landscape, Margarita Cano stands out as a figure of profound influence, particularly within the Miami-Dade Public Library System. Throughout her 30-year career at the Library, she pioneered significant advancements, including the development of the Library’s Permanent Art Collection, the curation of several notable art exhibitions featuring local artists from Miami, and her role in organizing and launching the first Miami Book Fair.

Honoring Lily Lawrence Bow: Librarian, Poet and Police Officer in Celebration of Women’s History Month


Born in 1870, Lily Lawrence Bow moved to Florida in 1900 alongside her husband Richard. In 1904, Bow relocated to Cudjoe Key and later settled in the City of Homestead with her two children, where she lived in a log cabin at the intersection of Second Avenue and Avocado Drive.

Bow, a true community advocate, was appointed as Chair of the Library Committee for the Women’s Club of Homestead in 1920. Shortly after, the Women’s Club transformed into a public library and grew in popularity.

Celebrating Black History Month: A Look at David Spitzer's Iconic Photograph Collection of Jazz and Blues Artists


Since the early 20th century, Blues and Jazz have emerged from Southern Black culture as two musical genres with shared roots. They spread nationally and internationally in popularity through media such as sound recordings and radio broadcasts, extending beyond mere musical terms. Blues and Jazz play a pivotal role in cultural heritage, Black History Month, and their impact on artistic expression.

Connections: Home Library Service Making a Positive Impact in our Community for Nearly 50 Years


Since the mid-1970s, the Miami-Dade Public Library System has consistently demonstrated innovation and commitment to meeting the needs of older adults and people with physical limitations and disabilities in Miami-Dade County through the work of its Connections: Home Library Service program.


The Miami-Dade Public Library System Artmobile Spreads Season's Greetings


In 1976, the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) launched the Artmobile – an old bus transformed into an art gallery on wheels – bringing Miami-Dade County residents a variety of mini art exhibits aimed at generating interest in the arts and promoting library services. Renowned New York artist, Lowell Nesbitt, was commissioned to paint the exterior of the Artmobile.

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month


South Florida has a rich history of diverse migrant and indigenous Native American communities. In honor of Native American Heritage Month in November, follow along as we highlight our historical collection of tribal newspapers.

Art & Archives at the Library: Exploring the Work of Robert Blackburn


Robert Blackburn (1920-2003) was a highly regarded African American artist, educator, and master printmaker. Born in Summit, New Jersey, and raised in Harlem, he embarked on his artistic journey at a young age, attending classes at the Harlem Arts Community Center.

Blackburn's passion led him to the Art Students League, where he honed his skills in lithography and painting.

From Paper to Pixels: A Look at the Evolution of MDPLS Library Cards


September is Library Card Sign-up Month, a time to invite residents to discover the benefits of having a library card and encourage those without one to apply. A library card provides access to a vast array of resources including books, eBooks, audiobooks, movies, online newspapers, tutoring, research databases, and more!

Page by Page: Exploring Our Artists’ Books Collection


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a book can be defined as "a set of pages that have been fastened together inside a cover to be read or written in." But what do we consider a page? Typically, we think of them as paper sheets that form a cohesive work. But what if a page was simply an item that conveyed information? 

A Memorable Milestone: A Look Back at Main Library’s Grand Opening 38 Years Ago


Anticipation and excitement filled the air in July 1985 as the Miami-Dade Public Library System and the community came together to celebrate the grand opening of the new Main Library at the Metro-Dade Cultural Center in downtown Miami. The library opened with a special evening preview party, which included tours of the library, on July 18 followed by a celebration marking its official opening to the public on July 19.

The Coral Gables Woman's Club


Founded in 1923, the Coral Gables Woman's Club has been a central part of the City Beautiful and has served the community for almost as long as the City of Coral Gables has been in existence. Located at 1001 East Ponce de Leon Boulevard, the coral limestone building, known as the "Grande Dame," was constructed through the direct efforts of the Club's members.

Celebrating Historic Preservation Month


Miami is a treasure trove of spectacular locales and experiences and notably is home to several locations listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In honor of Historic Preservation Month in May, we are spotlighting some of the many places spread across Miami that stand as icons of its past and present.

The Environmental Artwork of Gustavo Oviedo and Edwin Villasmil
Celebrating Earth Month


In recognition of Earth Month in April and Earth Day on April 22, we are highlighting two environmental artists whose works are part of the Library’s Permanent Art Collection: Gustavo Oviedo and Edwin Villasmil. Although their art styles are quite different as well as their approaches to the ecological subject, they both exemplify the power of art to draw attention to local issues that have a global impact.

The Newest Addition to the Digital Collection: Celebrity Shoes!
Autographed Memorabilia


Did you know that you can find shoes from stars of music, entertainment, ballet and sports at the Miami-Dade Public Library System? That’s right. The Library’s Permanent Art Collection is the repository of autographed shoes by renowned figures who have spent significant parts of their lives and careers in the city of Miami. 

Celebrate Black History Month with Recipes From the Past
Black Heritage Cookbook is African American Keepsake


In 1983, the staff and patrons of the South Dade Regional Library compiled recipes from their Black American family, friends and the overall community to create the Black Heritage Cookbook published by the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library.

Seaboard Passenger Train's Arrival Nearly 100 Years Ago Was Miami Milestone
Commemorating the Anniversary of the Railway Expansion


On January 8, 1927, the first Seaboard Air Line Railway Orange Blossom Special passenger train carrying 600 people traveled from New York to Miami. The trip marked one of the most intensive construction, extension, and improvement programs ever undertaken by any American railroad up to that time, with the new track from West Palm Beach to Miami covering more than 70 miles.


Digital Collections Offers Closer Look at Library’s Highlights Art Exhibit
Art at the Library


Timed to coincide with Art Basel and other art shows taking place in Miami during autumn, the Highlights exhibition at the Miami Beach Regional Library showcases the wide-ranging use of materials by artists whose works are a part of the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Permanent Art Collection.

Rare Aerial Photographs of 1920s Miami-Dade Relevant to Scientific Research Today
Aspects of Digitization: Digitization on Demand


Want to see cool detailed aerial photographs of Florida taken 100 years ago, before the coast was peppered with hotels, restaurants and condominiums? When the Everglades was untouched by development?

The Library’s Digital Collections digitized more than 300 negatives after an academic request for the information revealed they were housed in the Florida Vault of the Library’s Special Collections and Archives Division.

Explore the Miami-Dade Public Library System's Rare and Antiquarian Book Collection
Celebrating National Book Month


From a metal alligator sculpture to historical photographs, artwork, maps and more, the Digital Collections of the Miami-Dade Public Library System contain 25,000 items that represent the vast diversity of the people and artifacts that make Florida so unique. 

Critical Coverage of Miami’s Arts Scene Added to Library’s Digital Collections
Partnerships and Collaborations


Half of the exhibitions in the Miami-Dade Public Library System's Digital Collections have been created with artwork from the Library's Permanent Art Collection, which maintains over 7,000 pieces by local artists and those whose work was inspired by Miami or was featured in a local exhibit.

The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926
Preparing for Hurricane Season


During the turn of the 20th Century, Miami’s population grew as Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway made the far-flung city accessible. The city continued to fill with newcomers who were woefully unprepared for what would later become known as “The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926.”

Digital Collections Goes to the Next Dimension
Aspects of Digitization: 3D Scanning


As we continue to advance our digitization technology, 3D scanning has become the latest tool. With 3D scanning, we will now be able to add entries to our Digital Collections that were never possible before.

Permanent Art Collection Spotlight: Edwin Villasmil


Growing up in a household with an artist father and music teacher mother, Permanent Art Collection artist Edwin Villasmil was constantly surrounded by art made manifest.

Origins of Coral Gables
Commemorating the 97th Anniversary of the City of Coral Gables


In 1899, Reverend Solomon G. Merrick and his wife Althea Merrick purchased a 160-acre plot of land, which they turned from a rocky expanse with scattered trees to a thriving farmstead.

In 1907, they expanded upon their original cabin and built a new house with an exterior made of native limestone, which they mistakenly believed to be coral.

How Women’s Clubs Helped Start Our Library System
Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8


The seeds of the Miami-Dade Public Library System we know today were planted in the mid to late 1800’s, as the Women’s Club Movement grew across the United States.

The women who led the movement wanted to create spaces to learn and participate in intellectual discussions like their male counterparts. As the movement evolved, leaders added social and neighborhood reforms to their agenda.

Use the Library’s Art & Other Collections to Make DIY Valentine’s Day Cards
Getting creative with the Digital Collections


The thousands of pieces of artwork in the Library’s Digital Collections are an amazing resource for inspiration, education and entertainment. Images from the online database can also be downloaded and incorporated into social media posts, digital artwork and more for free!

Celebrating José Martí’s Poetry on His Birthday
Commemorating the 169th birth anniversary of José Martí


José Martí was a revolutionary and a renowned poet. To celebrate his 169th birthday on January 28, we are highlighting the Martí poems featured in a notable 1978 collection.


The Before and After of Miami Beach: Overlaying Historical Photographs of Miami Beach Properties in their Contemporary Locations
Aspects of Digitization: Resource Sharing


If you have an interest in Miami Beach history, love real estate or modern tech that enhances historical information, Miami-Dade Public Library’s Digital Collection has something truly special for you.

The Expansion of the Miami-Dade Public Library System Seen Through Photographs
Celebrating 50th years of serving the community


The Library has received a proclamation recognizing 50 years of service to the community from the Board of County Commissioners.

Filipino Americans Celebrated in Vintage Party Pictures
Happy Filipino Heritage Month


October is Filipino American History Month.

Eclectic Collection Showcases Cuban History and Culture
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month


To help celebrate, Hispanic Heritage Month, Digital Collections is highlighting the Cuban Memorabilia collection.

Beginnings of Florida Tourism and Homeownership Shown in Rare Pre-WWII Advertising Pamphlets
History through Florida Ephemera


Over the years, the sun and beaches have made Miami and other parts of the state of Florida international destinations. As we’re all basking in the height of summer, let’s take a look at how it all started through some items from our “Florida Promotional & Tourism Ephemera” collection that date back to the early part of the last century.

Library’s Digital Collections Joins Smithsonian, Harvard as Resource on Global Website
Aspects of Digitization: Resource Sharing


Miami’s rich culture and artwork showcased in the Library’s Digital Collections now shares the same online stage as content from Smithsonian, Harvard and the Library of Congress.

Photographs, letters and records from before Florida was a state to the present are now accessible through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

Learn about the partnership between the Miami-Dade Public Library System's Digital Collections and DPLA.

Seminole Village Attractions Memorialized in Beautiful Vintage Photos
Digital Collections x Special Collections: The Enduring Florida Seminoles


Long before Disney World, Seminole villages were a hot tourist attraction in Florida.

There were two that opened in 1917 along the Miami River: Musa Isle and Coppinger’s Tropical Gardens Pirate Cove Indian Village.

These Seminole villages became a major tourist draw for years to come.

Digitized Genealogy Resources Help Residents Trace Their Lineages
Preserving History: Digitizing Genealogy


The Library gets more than 200 questions about family histories ever year. Patrons are looking to shed light on their story, to learn where they came from and possibly discover a long-lost relative. Family records can also tell the story of a community’s local history.

To help them find the answers, the Miami-Dade Public Library System is providing online access to part of its Genealogy Collection including its Surname Files, folders with family records.

Here are some examples of what you can find within the Genealogy collection.

Avant-Garde Graphic Artist Was Coconut Grove Favorite in ‘70s
Women’s History Month: Highlighting Gigi Aramescu


Lots of people love Miami for the sunshine and beaches. But those in the know, have been coming here for the art scene for decades.

Even before Christo and Jeanne-Claude brought their Surrounded Islands to Biscayne Bay in the 1980s, Miami was drawing young artists with ideas and plenty of swagger. This art migration fueled the rise of iconic showcases such as the Coconut Grove Arts Festival (1952), and the Lowe Art Museum’s Beaux Arts Festival of Art (1963), both of which still exist today.

This scene was like a magnet for Gigi Aramescu, a young attorney who had already exhibited at Lowe Art Gallery at the University of Miami by the time she and her husband moved to Miami in 1957.

Famous Artist’s Handwritten Letters Reveal Influence of Everglades and Cuban Refugees on Work
Celebrating Universal Letter Writing Week


With the second week of January being Universal Letter Writing Week, MDPLS Digital Collections is highlighting handwritten missives including some from famous artist, Elizabeth Catlett. In the letters, Catlett explains to MDPLS Art Services Manager Barbara Young how “art and artists in Miami” inspired her to work and exhibits she saw on a trip offered insights into the Everglades and Cuban refugees. Catlett exhibited her work at Main Library in 1984.


Immigrant Children from Cuba Celebrated Christmas in ‘60s at Miami Memorial Library
Children fleeing Cuba in the ‘60s took part in Christmas programs at Miami Memorial Library


Children with no relatives in Miami received temporary housing through the Freedom House, also known as the Casas de la Libertad, at Miami International Airport. Pictures in the Digital Collection at Miami-Dade County Library System capture memories of these children taking part in holiday rituals.

Pre ‘50s Photo Negatives Can Be Preserved Digitally Before They Are Lost Forever
Aspects of Digitization: Scanning Negatives


What goes into scanning the negatives and slides that chronicle Miami’s daily life, its culture, arts and eccentricities? Together, we can look into the process as our Digitization Specialists examine photographic slides and scan photographic negatives.

Digitization of Photography Makes Priceless Artwork Conveniently Available to the Public
Aspects of Digitization: Photography


You don’t have to go all over the world to view the original works of Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Martin Kreloff and Emilio Sanchez. Their pieces and many more are just a click away in The Digital Collections online.

To offer patrons this service, digital specialists scan small pieces on flatbed scanners. Pieces that are too big or framed can be photographed instead.

With words and pictures we explain the process, which takes a lot of time to complete.

Important Black Contributions To Miami and American Culture, Life Chronicled In Unique Collections
Preserving (Black) History


Digital Collections hosts some important documents, photographs and artwork of Black Americans in Miami that are not freely available anywhere else.

Since 2018, the Miami-Dade Public Library System Digital Collections website has been making these priceless materials accessible to the public. These scans and high-quality photographs of the materials preserve the work and, in effect, the history of Miami’s Black residents for decades to come.

The collections include the artwork of Elizabeth Catlett and Purvis Young, and photography series by Gary Monroe and David Spitzer showing life in Miami-Dade County’s Little Haiti neighborhood in the 1980s, and portraits of jazz and blues musicians spanning the 1970s to the 1990s, respectively. Important examples of the contribution of African Americans in Miami can also be seen in our larger collections such as the Agnew Welsh Scrapbooks.

Journalist’s Scrapbooking Hobby Becomes Invaluable Historic Reference for pre ‘50s Miami Life
Preserving History: Old Miami News


From crime to the impact of World War II on Miami, journalist Agnew Welsh’s highly detailed scrapbooks offer a wide range of interesting topics to explore in Digital Collections.

Donated in 1952, Welsh’s scrapbooks collected newspaper clippings and ephemera such as booklets and maps, organizing them into notebooks according to subject. There are a wide range of topics such as “Florida,” “Miami,” and “Coral Gables”, and include books dedicated to the Seminole and Black communities. The collection also includes the fascinating “Miami As Is”, which covers crime, as well as the valuable “War” series, which collects information about the effect of World War II on Miami.