Where to find copyright free historical images?
September 25, 2009 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What are the best searchable sources for copyright-free historical and other images? I know about Wikimedia Commons, about searching for Creative Commons licensed material on Flickr, and about some regional repositories such as the Washington State Digital Archives (where I work). What other good sources are out there? Google searches lead me to subscription databases of stock photos.
posted by LarryC to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
The Library of Congress has a flickr account. You can also poke around on their website.
posted by rtha at 10:35 AM on September 25, 2009

Advanced image search for Google Image Search allows you to search by usage rights: http://images.google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

- The creative commons stuff on Flickr is terrific but to the best of my knowledge does not include the cultural institutions that have stuff there under the "no known copyright" designation which includes the LoC and the Smithsonian. The other participating institutions are listed on this page.
- Cornell recently made the decision to remove use restrictions on a good chunk of their digital content that is nominally public domain. This is sort of a confusing distinction but it means that items from there can be used without worry. Thanks to Peter Hirtle for this, it's a nice bold step.
- Not sure how you feel about what publicresource.or is doing but they have 6000+ images from the Smithsonian available in their Flickr set. These images are also supposed to be in the public domain. I believe there is some overlap with the SI's own photoset.
- This page is supposedly lists of links to lots of public domain archives, but I haven't been able to independently verify that that's what it actually is.
- And I'm pretty sure you know this, but poking around both ibiblio and archive.org is a good way to find little gems of archived stuff that isn't well surfaced in other ways.
posted by jessamyn at 11:21 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

http://www.shorpy.com/ is great. Huge digital scans of the photos and pretty sure they are all creative commons/no copyright.
posted by WickedPissah at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2009

My favorites are the LOC collections, but the US government has lots of image galleries with copyright-free images. See "Uncle Sam's Photos" for a directory, sorted by subject.

The New York Public Library's Digital Gallery is good too.
posted by gemmy at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2009

LoC is my fave, but that's been mentioned. Some others US Govt sources:

NASA and more NASA
US Fish & Wildlife Service

See also this Wikipedia article.
posted by fings at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2009

jessamyn, the Smithsonian is a funky quasi-government entity, and a number of the images in the publicresource.org Flickr Smithsonian photoset are under copyright (pretty much all the newer color images definitely are). Of course, they are all usable for personal or non-commercial use, as the Smithsonian's own photo website says.

I'm not going to comment on whether the copyright system, as currently set up, is a good thing or not, I'm just pointing out that under the current system, a number of these images are copywritten.
posted by gudrun at 10:34 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

- This page is supposedly lists of links to lots of public domain archives, but I haven't been able to independently verify that that's what it actually is.

That page jessamyn linked to here is full of awesome! I've been searching historical images the past few weeks and already had a good portion of the links in a bookmark folder and recognized some others so I wasn't afraid to click any of the other links on that page, fwiw.

Worth a visit: Lone Star College - Kingwood Library, New Deal Network, and old-picture.com.
posted by goml at 7:16 AM on September 26, 2009

Revisiting this thread a while later to add a link to OneHistory.org .
posted by gudrun at 6:45 AM on October 7, 2009

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