Local History

A portrait of Vittoria Dallin in a Pink Dress looking at the camera while reading a paper.
Portrait of Vittoria Dallin by Dorothea Browne. This was presented to the Dallin Branch Library in 1976 and is now in the Local History Room at Robbins.

The Robbins Library provides resources related to the history of Arlington, Massachusetts, both online through our digitized resources, and in the library in our fourth floor Local History Room’s collection of books, atlases, photographs, postcards, manuscripts, and other documents. Reference Staff perform basic assistance on local history questions through in-person, phone and email interactions. More extensive questions may be referred to the Local History Librarian who will provide guidance into starting research using materials found in the Local History Room or our digitized resources. Should the Robbins Library not have materials needed to answer the question, the Local History Librarian will refer users to other local history organizations, libraries, or other relevant organizations that can fulfill the query.

Users who wish to use the Local History Room can fill out an application at our first floor reference desk. After filling out the application, users will need to exchange either their library card or state ID for the key to the room. Users will also receive a list of rules for using the room. Any large bags must be left at the reference desk. Users must use pencils if they wish to take their own notes. Pencils are provided in the Local History Room. After leaving the Local History Room, users must report back to the first floor reference desk to return the key and sign out. 

Users only need to fill out an application once. For additional visits, users just need to sign in and leave their card or ID in exchange for the key and sign out and return the key upon finishing research in the room for the day.

If users specifically want to look at our collections on the Arlington Women's Club Collection, Historic Photographs, Robbins Library History, the Winkler Files, or the Bilafer files, they must make an appointment with the Local History Librarian.

Our Local History Room contains books and materials related primarily to the history of the town of Arlington and secondarily to the history of Middlesex County and Massachusetts. Significant collections include our historic atlases, directories, photographs, postcards and Arlington High School yearbooks, many of which are digitized through the Digital Commonwealth or Internet Archive.

FAQ About the Local History Room

Books in the Local History Room are for library use only and cannot leave the library. Users may take books out of the Local History Room to use on the first floor. Upon taking a book out, users must inform the librarian at the Reference desk what book they are using, fill out the book information and then return to the librarian upon completion.

Before making photocopies of material, please consult with a librarian due to the fragility of some of the material. If the material is deemed stable enough to copy, copies are $0.15 a page.

Items considered for the Local History Collection will be assessed in consultation with our Donations, Bequests, and Gifts policy.

Yearbooks are available from Arlington High School from 1927 to the most recent edition, most of which are available in the shelves of the Local History Room. More recent copies are in our closet in the Local History Room. Please consult the Local History Librarian before accessing recent copies. Most copies from this time range are also digitized on the Internet Archive.

Our newspaper collection of the Arlington Advocate and other newspapers published in Arlington from 1871-2005 have now been digitized as Historical Arlington Newspapers and are available here. Users can access this database both in and out of the library. 

For any questions on how to use the Historic Arlington Newspaper database, consult with the Local History Librarian. A tutorial is available to view here.

Timeline of name of Arlington, Massachusetts:

1635-1807: Menotomy

1807-1867: West Cambridge

1867-Present: Arlington

See our Local History Brochure for a list of suggested books and resources on Arlington history. We have also prepared a listing of resources outside the library for additional historic research.

The Local History Librarian can be contacted at arlhist@minlib.net