Digital Image Databases: Archives, Libraries and Museums

William Henry Fox Talbot's 1840s photograph "A Scene in a Library"
William Henry Fox Talbot, A Scene in a Library, c. 1844, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Retreived from http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/283066. Image in the public domain CC0.

Authoritative Online Image Resources

Listed below is a selection of digital image resources from museum, archive, and library collections. These types of image collections provide trustworthy metadata, in-depth information, and high quality images. Most of these collections are available for educational use, but please note image rights vary from site to site.

  • Artefacts Canada - HumanitiesContains close to 4 million object records and 800,000 images from hundreds of museums across Canada. It includes objects from disciplines such as archaeology, decorative arts, fine arts, ethnology, and history. For terms of use, visit the institution's website that contributed the digital content you intend to use.
  • Calisphere provides free access to over 400,000 photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, and musical recordings. See Calisphere Terms of Use and Copyright.
  • Digital Public Library of America is a discovery tool that acts a both a portal and a platform for “transformative use” of digital content contributed by libraries, archives, and museums. Image rights and terms of use vary by contributors. See DPLA Terms of Service.
  • Europeana is a multilingual cultural heritage portal with images contributed by European libraries, museums, archives, and multi-media collections. Rights are clearly indicated and vary by contributor. Check out Europeana Terms and Policies.
  • Getty Search Gateway allows users to search across several of the Getty repositories, including collections databases, library catalogs, collection inventories, and archival finding aids. This includes collections from four programs: the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the Getty Research Institute. Users can use the tool to browse the collections broadly, by type of resource (i.e., paintings, books, archives), or to search directly for assets related to very specific subjects: historical periods, artists, object types, etc. For details see Terms of Use/Copyright.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Collection (PPOC) contains records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division and, in some cases, other units of the Library of Congress. See Prints & Photographs Division "Rights and Restrictions Information" page for terms of use.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection spans over 5,000 years of art from around the world. See Terms and conditions for details.
  • New York Public Library Digital Collections covers a wide range of historical eras, geography, and media, the NYPL Digital Collections includes drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books, videos, audio, and more. For terms of use visit NYPL Using Images, Data and More.
  • VADS (Visual Arts Data Service) is an online resource for art and design that offers a portfolio of visual art collections comprising over 100,000 images that are freely available and copyright cleared for use in learning, teaching, and research in the UK. Check out VADS Terms: Common Access Agreement for Individuals.
  • Washington University Libraries Digital Collections features materials such as photographs, maps, newspapers, posters, reports, and other media from the University of Washington Libraries, University of Washington Faculty and Departments, and organizations that have participated in partner projects with the UW Libraries. See UW Libraries Digital Collections Ordering and Use Terms.
  • Wellcome Library is the world's major resources for the study of medical history.  The Library's digital collections cover a wide variety of topics, including asylums, food, sex and sexual health, genetics, public health and war. See the section Using the Library's Digital Content for more details.
  • World Digital Library (WDL) is a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, carried out with the support of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations from around the world. See World Digital Library Legal Notices for terms of use.
  • WorldImages provides access to the California State University IMAGE Project and contains approximately 100,000 images, is global in coverage, and includes all areas of visual imagery. These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.
Content last reviewed: February 4, 2021