Douglas Armsden Photograph Project

Pleasant Street, Portsmouth, NH, 1950

Unprocessed image from the P60 Douglas Armsden collection.

Invasion of Iwo Jima, February 1945

Unprocessed image from the P60 Douglas Armsden collection.

Armsden Business Card

Saco River Valley, North Conway, NH, c. 1960

Unprocessed image from the P60 Douglas Armsden collection.

Rosamond Thaxter's house, Cutts Island, Kittery, Maine, c.1950

Unprocessed image from the P60 Douglas Armsden collection.

On set of "Whistle at Eaton Falls" in Dover, NH, 1951

Unprocessed image from the P60 Douglas Armsden collection.

Douglas Armsden in his studio at 240 Whipple Road, Kittery, Maine, c. 1940s.

Between 2018 & 2021, the Athenaeum received the photograph collection of prolific photographer Douglas J. Armsden (1918-2009). Born in England and raised in upstate New York,  Armsden and his family settled in Kittery Point, Maine.  Armsden’s work captured the essence of the mid-20th century Seacoast region of New England and beyond. His work included wedding photography, family portraits, early documentation of historic houses, commercial and scenic images of Maine and New Hampshire, and editorial work for local newspapers and magazines such as New Hampshire Profile and Down East.

This collection also includes Armsden’s years of service in World War II documenting the Pacific Theater, and his daily life with his wife, Alice Decatur, and their three daughters as well as family and friends in their “little piece of heaven” along Fernald Cove in Kittery Point.

The photographic images in the collection include print photographs, color transparencies, 35 mm film, and both medium- and large-format negatives.

When cataloged, this single collection will double the Athenaeum’s entire photographic collection!

In 2018, the archival supplies for the collection were estimated to cost over $6,500.  We received generous donations from members of the Athenaeum, the local community, and Seacoast businesses. In 2019, we were awarded a $1,500 grant from the Rosamond Thaxter Foundation, and on Sept. 8, 2020, the Athenaeum held a Bake Benefit at the Portsmouth Flatbread Company. For every pizza sold between 5 and 9 p.m., a portion of the proceeds went towards purchasing archival supplies. Combining all of these efforts, the Athenaeum raised the necessary funds needed to preserve the initial Armsden donation. Thank you!

While we met our goals for the 2018-2019 material, subsequent Armsden material was donated in late 2020 and 2021. We need an additional $2,500 for archival supplies.

If you would like to contribute to preserving this collection, click on the “Armsden Donate” button to go to PayPal. Remember, you don’t have to be a PayPal member to use PayPal. You can donate as a guest.

If you would prefer to pay by check, please make it out to to the Portsmouth Athenaeum with “Armsden” in the memo line and mail it to “Portsmouth Athenaeum, P.O. Box 366, Portsmouth, NH 03802.”

Thank you for your support!

Preserve Local History

To contribute to purchasing archival supplies for this collection, click on the button below.

Does Armsden Sound Familiar?

You may have come across Armsden’s photographs already in our collection. During his lifetime, Armsden donated a collection of negatives (P15 Armsden Photograph Collection). These invaluable historic images depict mid-20th century Portsmouth and other Seacoast locales. While there are duplicates in both collections, the images in P15 are an example of what the new complete Armsden collection will offer.

The existing P15 collection will also be reprocessed.  Click here to view the P15 collection.



Athenaeum Raising Money for Armsden Photographic Collection

By James Smith featured in the Portsmouth Athenaeum Newsletter, Spring 2019.

At The Athenaeum: Transcribe-a-thon attracts history lovers from all over the Seacoast

By Sherry Wood featured in the Portsmouth Herald / on Dec. 11, 2019.

Putting Together the Puzzle of Photographer Douglas Armsden

By Sherry Wood featured in the Portsmouth Athenaeum Newsletter, Fall 2020.

At the Athenaeum: Each image is a time machine

By Sherry Wood featured in the Portsmouth Herald / on Oct. 11, 2020.


Happy #nationallibraryweek!

This #throwbackthursday pic shows the Reading Room during the 1950s taken by commercial photographer Douglas J. Armsden (1918-2009) of Kittery Point, Maine. Did you know this room was used as a reading room even before the Athenaeum acquired the space in 1823? Original owner the New Hampshire Fire & Marine Insurance Company used this as their Reading Room starting in 1808, offering their subscribers the usage of newspapers and other periodicals.

[Armsden Photograph Collection, P15.019]

Membership libraries were first created in the 18th century for the mutual edification of their members and to elevate the educational resources available in the community. The name “Athenæum” was used by a number of societies established during the 19th century to describe institutions with broader aims than just a library. The term is derived from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and the classical temple of the arts and sciences named to honor her.

While there were once hundreds of membership libraries across America, there are now fewer than twenty left, and we're one of them, right here in your Seacoast community!

The Portsmouth Athenaeum Research Library is open to the public and ready to help navigate your journey through local history. Search our online catalog or make an appointment for in-person research by phone 603-431-2538 or email

Find more info on our website. Link in bio.

#readingroom #marketsquare #DouglasArmsden #collectpreserveshare📖 #localhistory #PortsmouthNH #nh #maine #seacoast❤

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Here's to the long weekend! While the bulk of material in the new Douglas Armsden (1918-2009) photograph collection appears to be commissioned work--Armsden's personality can still be found throughout the collection.

An example of this comes from these four negative proofs set to video. Armsden, of Kittery Point, Maine, referred to these as the 'Bridge of Life" series, and he used the four French suits found when playing bridge to take a humorous approach on the stages of life: in love (❤️), engaged (♦️), married (♣️), and dead (♠️).

On the reverse of these proofs, we find handwritten notes as Armsden planned to perfect each image such as a "little dodging will bring ring out." On the back of the "Spades" image, he wrote: Gotta reshoot this. (Watch on a gravedigger?)💀

Armsden cataloged these c.1940-images as "IM-28 Series of Hands" with no further information beyond the reverse of the proofs. As part of his cataloging system, the IM stood for "Ideal Miscellaneous." Not sure what the "ideal" exactly meant to Armsden, but with 25,000+/- images, we have time to figure it out.⏳

Whether the images were for personal use or perhaps a photography challenge--these experimental shots inject a little humor into the processing and offer us an opportunity to glimpse the man behind the lens.📷

We have been sharing various unprocessed images from the new Armsden collection leading up to Tuesday, Sept. 8th fundraiser @flatbreadportsmouth from 5 to 9 pm. Bring your appetite for history and pizza!🍕We hope you can make it. Thank you for your support!

Link in bio for more on the Armsden Photographic Project.

We hope you have an IDEAL long weekend! #happylaborday

Video: Photographic Collections Manager James Smith
Music: Ice Tea
Musician: Not The King. 👑

#douglasarmsden #photographer #photographcollection
#hands #bridgeplayer #funfriday
#kitterypoint #nonprofit #collectpreserveshare📖 #localhistory #PortsmouthNH #nh #maine #seacoast❤

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