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Finding Images for Research

Finding images for your research can be tricky. This guide has links to resources that will help you navigate sites that have images you can use.

Digital Collections

These collections of images are available for all users! All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Many are freely available to use for educational purposes; however, it is important to read the permission levels of copyright and make sure you are citing them correctly. 

  • American Antiquarian Society: Over 175,000 image files of historic material from all of the Society’s collections. 
  • British Library Digital Collections (Flickr): The British Library’s collections on Flickr Commons offer access to millions of public domain images, free to explore and re-use.
  • Calisphere is a gateway to digital collections from California's great libraries, archives, and museums. Discover over 400,000 images, texts, and recordings—and counting.
  • Digital Public Library of America: The Digital Public Library of America contains over 48,000,000 images, texts, videos, and sounds from libraries and cultural organizations across the United States. The DPLA has a guide to using their materials for scholarly research that will help you get started. 
  • Getty Images: Getty Images has recently expanded their open access policy on the bulk of its collection for personal or non-commercial use (only) with attribution. When conducting your search the media type is automatically set for Creative Images, Rights-Managed and Royalty Free. 
    • Getty Museum Collection Open ArtMore than 88,000 works from the J. Paul Getty Museum are uploaded to this site allowing users to download, edit, and repurpose high resolution images of their favorite Getty artworks without any legal restrictions.
    • Getty Search GatewayThis site allows users to search across several of the Getty repositories, including collections databases, library catalogs, collection inventories, and archival finding aids.  Be sure that the Open Content Items box is checked.
  • The Library Company of Philadelphia: Images from an independent research library concentrating on American society and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries.
  • Library of Congress:
    •  American Memory: Provides access to digital images, prints, maps, and videos that document the American Experience and is organized into 100 thematic collections.  This collection is also divided into easy to browse sections including topic, time period, material type, and location.
    • Prints & Photograph Online Catalog: Contains photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings.  Scope of the collection is mainly pertaining to United States history, interests, and achievements.  Most records include digital image; however, in some cases there is only a thumbnail image display due to potential copyright considerations
  • LIFE Photo Archive (hosted by Google) Includes millions of photographs many in which were never published by LIFE magazine. Its archive stretches back from the 1750’s to today.  
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Images from the expansive LACMA collections, including nearly 20,000 public domain images that are free to use without any restrictions.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Watson Library Digitization Initiative is to expand access to the Museum's rare and unique research materials by developing, supporting, and promoting a distinctive digital collection of these items.
    • Met's Costume Institute: The Costume Institute's collection of more than thirty-three thousand objects represents seven centuries of fashionable dress and accessories for men, women, and children, from the fifteenth century to the present.
  • New York Public Library Digital Gallery:  Provides free and open access to over 800,000 images containing photographs, drawings, vintage posters, illuminated manuscripts, and historical maps covering a variety of academic disciplines.  Low resolution images can be viewed and used in research projects and presentations.  Permission must be obtained for use of high resolution images.   
    • NYPL's Friedman-Abeles Photograph Collection The images are from Broadway and off-Broadway shows from theatrical productions comprise the majority of the collection, and the images cover various stages of production. Many shows have rehearsal, production, and publicity prints. Some also have images of set construction, costume design, backstage visits, and parties.
  • Rijks Museum: The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands. Through their Rijks Studio tool, you can explore over 700,000 images from their collections.
  • Siam Costumes' Cutters Guide: The Cutters Guide is a great place to get inspiration for new designs as well as browsing one of the largest collections of rare 19th and 20th century costumes available.
  • Smithsonian Institute Libraries: The Smithsonian digital collections include over 35,000 digitized books and manuscripts as well as digitized photo collections, ephemera, and seed catalogs. 

Guide credits

Grateful acknowledgement is given to California State University Northridge for allowing us to reuse the content on their Finding and Using Images Guide.