All External Resources


ARTstor is an online image library with more than one million images of the visual arts, humanities and social sciences, contributed by museums, archives, artists and scholars. Users can browse in a number of different fields, or search by keyword or by using advanced filters. Image quality is generally excellent with high-resolution jpegs available for virtually all images. Note that searching for “IAP” alongside keywords will return images that have been designated by their contributor (primarily the Met) as freely publishable for academic purposes.

American Memory

American Memory is an aggregation of more than 9 million transcriptions, audio files, and still and moving images from the Library of Congress and other institutions, all documenting the American experience. The material is grouped into more than 100 collections browsable by topic (maps, religion), LC subject headings (i.e. Posters, Haymarket Affair), or by title (i.e. “African American Odyssey” or “The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920”). The metadata is excellent throughout and images range from good to excellent, with some even offered as high resolution TIFFs.


ArchNet is an online community with a specific focus on the built environment of the Islamic World. Operated by MIT, with the support of The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the site serves as a forum for scholars, architects, planners, and urban, landscape and interior designers to share resources, including digital images of relevant sites. The images, of which there are more than 37,000, are of good quality, and users can browse for them using relevant fields, or by keyword searching the digital library.


Arounder offers a number of 360-degree photographic panoramas of notable cultural sites throughout Europe, including Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, the Cologne Cathedral, and Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City (some American sites are available, but they are by no means notable). The available sites are not a comprehensive representation of the cultural heritage of Europe, with even some major cities like London totally unrepresented; and the site seems intended to promote tourism more than anything else; but it offers what may be the best understanding of an architectural monument short of being at it. 

British Library

The British Library makes available 30,000 digital images representing key objects from their holdings. Users can search using keywords (unfortunately there is no advanced search functionality), or browse online exhibition groups such as “Victorian Popular Music” and “Philatelic Rarities”. Images are very good throughout, and many bound works, like Handel’s Messiah, are viewable in the Library’s “Turning the Pages” software (requires Microsoft’s SilverLight browser plugin) as browsable, page-flip-able virtual objects.

British Museum

Of the British Museum’s more than 7 million objects, 2 million have been catalogued, and of those nearly 500,000 objects have at least one digital image available online. The Museum’s collection covers the history of human activity, with objects representing ancient Europe, ancient Greece and Rome, and virtually all non-Western cultures from their pre-history to present. The Museum makes all of its digital images freely available for educational use, including limited-run academic publishing, and while the readily available digital images are quite good, it also has a registration-based system wherein users can request that ultra-high quality renditions be sent to them by e-mail.


Calisphere is an online image resource made available by the University of California system. It offers more than 200,000 digital representations of primary materials documenting the history of the state of California, from its origins through the 1970s. Materials are browsable by subject or by thematic collections, and searchable by keyword. Images are available in high-resolution zoomable form, but are only downloadable as average quality JPEGs.

Catena, The Digital Archive of Historic Gardens and Landscapes

Sponsored by the BGC with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Catena Digital Archive of Historic Gardens and Landscapes is an interactive image database focused on the history of gardens and landscapes from ancient Roman archaeological sites to 19th century Hudson Valley estates. Images are of good quality.

Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art makes available more than 23,000 digital images representing objects from its collection. The museum’s holdings span the range of visual and material culture and include works from virtually all cultures and periods of human production. Images are searchable by keyword or using advanced parameters, and available images are of good quality. Also of note, the museum makes requesting the rights to reproduce images fairly straightforward, with an online form linked from each catalog entry.

Database Machine Drawings

Database Machine Drawings (DMD) was developed by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and makes available more then 1600 high quality digital images of Medieval and Renaissance (1235-1650) mechanical drawings. Users can make use of either simple or advanced search parameters for finding images, and the metadata is extremely thorough from image to image.

David Rumsey Map Collections

The David Rumsey Map Collection offers users access to more than 21,000 ultra high quality digital images of rare maps and other cartographic material, focused on the 18thand 19th centuries and spanning world geography. The images are made available through a number of different platforms, including Luna Commons (best for downloading), Google Map overlays, and 2- and 3-D GIS viewers. The website also includes other useful features under the “Blog” category, particularly the blog itself, related websites, and videos on the subject of mapping.

Digital Image Collections Wiki

The Digital Images Collections Wiki, compiled by the Visual Resources Department of Wellesley College, is a wiki-formatted index of Free- and Fair-Use online digital image collections relevant to the study of the visual and decorative arts and architecture. The wiki overlaps with the BGC’s list of image resources and is ultimately more extensive, though less topically relevant and less rigorously edited.

Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture is an excellent decorative-arts-centric, early-American-leaning online resource. They make available a number of classic texts (such as Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament and Edith Wharton’s The Decoration of Houses) as ultra high quality jpegs and also offer a small, focused digital image database representing two of their special collections. Even further, they include a list of online resources that, though there is some duplication, extends the range of our list. Thanks to Karyn in the Library for finding this.

Digital Resources from Libraries, Museums and Archives

Digital Resources from Libraries, Museums and Archives features descriptions of and links to digital media resources developed by IMLS grantees (a few notable examples include “Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project” and “Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books”). Collections range in focus widely, from oral histories of rural farmers to historic costume to rock art, but users can search or browse to access specific collections. Media types and quality also vary from collection to collection (and sometimes within collections) but may include transcriptions, still and moving images, or sound files.

Domestic Interiors Database

The Domestic Interiors Database tracks the evolution of the domestic interior (through secondary representations) from the Renaissance until today. It includes interpretative data as well as standard reference information, and both simple keywords and advanced parameters can be used to search records. The database includes both visual and textual sources, in the first case prints, paintings, photographs, film stills, etc and in the second novels, correspondences, advertisements, periodicals, etc. The depth of information and the breadth of sources make this a particularly valuable resource for scholars of domestic spaces.

Duke Digital Collections

This page brings together all of the digital media collections made available by Duke University. A few individual collections are Duke-only but otherwise are open to all. The subject matter ranges widely across the visual and literary arts, history, popular culture, and more. Of particular interest are several collections focused on the history of advertising, African American women, and a collection of Vica comics, which were produced by the Nazi-controlled government in German-occupied France as a propaganda tool against the Allied forces. Collections can be keyword searched individually or all together and images are of excellent quality across the different collections.

Epact: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe

Epact is an electronic catalogue of medieval and Renaissance scientific instruments from four European museums: the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford; the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence; the British Museum, London; and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden. It consists of a browsable and searchable digital catalogue with 520 objects ranging from astrolabes to nocturnals to surveying instruments. And while the catalogue entries are of principle interest, the site includes valuable accessory information such as a glossary and maker biographies. Images are of consistently good quality.


Flickr is an image hosting and sharing website which claims to host more than 4 billion digital images uploaded by its users. Though many of the images will have nothing to do with the decorative arts and material culture, there is a wealth of vacation photographs, book scans, etc. that may be of value. Being generated entirely by users the image quality will vary widely (though they’re often available as large JPEGs), as will the quality, extent and accuracy of metadata. Of note, all images have rights notices displayed, and some users have released their work for free use (including commercial use) under a creative commons license.

Flickr Commons

Flickr Commons offers cultural heritage institutions a centralized, easy-to-use site to host selections from their digitized collections, and in so doing facilitate much wider public access to these collections than might otherwise be possible. At present nearly forty institutions, American and international, contribute digital images to the Commons, with the Smithsonian, Brooklyn Museum, Getty, and Library of Congress being just a few of them. Metadata and image quality vary by institution and only limited search options are available, but users can browse by tag or by contributing institutions (which often create thematic image groups).

Google Patents

Google, in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, makes available for full-text searching approximately 7 million patents and 1 million patent applications. Patents are available to view in their original form, which can also be downloaded in PDF format, and many patents include accompanying documentary drawings. Users can search for patents using keywords or advanced options. Thanks to Tom in the library for finding this.

Great Buildings Collection

Great Buildings Collection is an excellent online resource for information about and images of architecture. The site features 1200 architectural historically significant buildings from all points of human history and on (nearly) all continents. Great Buildings presents key information about each building alongside photographic images, architectural drawings, maps, timelines, and 3D building models. Users can access buildings by browsing maps and timelines, by creators and locations, or by searching essential fields. Images vary in quality, and some are externally linked, but on the whole are good.

Harvard University Digital Collections

Harvard University makes a number of its special collections available in digitized form. They range widely by object type and subject matter, and highlights include “Studies in Scarlet: Marriage & Sexuality in the US & UK, 1815-1914” and “Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics”. Collections are only searchable and browsable individually, and the interface, metadata, and image quality vary from collection to collection, but are generally good to excellent.

Images from the History of Medicine

Images from the History of Medicine provides access to nearly 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division of the U.S National Library of Medicine. The collection includes portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic arts illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine from the 15th to 21st century. The collection uses the Luna interface to browse, search, and download images, which are of excellent quality and which have excellent metadata.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum makes available digital images of a large number of the works in its collection, which ranges from painting to furniture to architectural elements and includes some particularly fine examples of decorative arts objects. The image database is searchable by keyword or browsable by artist, work type, or subject, and the images available are of good quality.

JISC Digital Media

JISC Digital Media is a UK based site dedicated to supplying the further and higher education communities with the knowledge needed to create and distribute high-quality digital media (still and moving images, sound, and multi-media). Though the site is oriented to a UK-based and professional audience, the information it provides is nonetheless invaluable, covering the range of production practices that one would need to understand to create a personal archive of high-quality digital media.

Library of Congress, Online Catalog of the Prints and Photographs Division

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress holds a massive collection of printed and photographed materials, 75% of which is cataloged and a substantial portion of that for which digital images are available. Objects span the fullest range of subject matter and so the collection has a wide potential relevance. Users can browse specific collections (i.e. National Child Labor Committee Collection, British Cartoons), or find images using the limited search options. Metadata is excellent throughout and the catalog interoperates with the Library’s Thesaurus of Geographic Material (TGM, see thesauri). Images are another high point: all that can be made available are (some have copyright restrictions or have not yet been scanned), and are available as excellent quality JPEGs and uncompressed archival TIFFs.

Life Magazine Photo Archive

Google hosts millions of prints and photographs from Life Magazine’s photography archive. Works date as far back as the 1750s and many were never published. Images can be browsed by decade and by some suggested subjects, but otherwise keyword searching is the only available search tool. Even with limited search options this remains an immensely valuable image resource, particularly for scholars of American social history and/or material culture. It should also be noted that images are of extremely high quality.

Luna Commons

Luna Commons hosts a number of freely available collections (permissions based collections require a subscription, which we don’t have) from participating institutions. These include our own Catena Collection, the Farber Gravestone Collection, and Cornell’s Political Americana Collection. The searching and viewing interface is elegant and the metadata and image quality is excellent across all collections.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the United States’ preeminent art museum and holds more than 2 million works of art representing all periods, cultures, and manners of human creative production, and the Museum’s online database features more than 130,000 digital images of these works. Metadata is thorough throughout, and users can find images by browsing curatorial departments, or by using keyword or advanced searches. While image quality is good for all objects, keep in mind that many (though not all) are available as higher resolution JPEGs through ARTstor, and many of these are made available to publish for academic purposes for free.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, is an extraordinarily comprehensive informational resource for students of the history of visual and material culture. The site offers essential information about the full temporal, geographical and material span of human productivity, all illustrated with works from the Met’s collection. Users can access information by browsing maps and timelines, by accessing thematic essays such as “Wisteria Dining Rooms, Paris”, or by using keyword searches.

Morgan Library and Museum Collection

Morgan Library and Museum Catalog

The Morgan Library and Museum makes available digital images of many of the manuscripts and objects in its holdings. Users can access these images either by using Corsair, which takes the format of a standard Library catalog, or by using the collections page of the Morgan’s website. The collections page is user-friendly but offers less information, while the catalog features extensive metadata but in an awkward format.

Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art has more than 30,000 images of works from their collection available for browsing and searching online. Of particular interest are the more than 6000 works in the Architecture and Design department, ranging from the mid-19th century to present and representing a wide variety of object types. Images are of average quality, but the browse and search tools are both intuitive and extremely refined. Note that some of MOMA’s collection has been made available as high resolution JPEGs via ARTstor.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the New York Public Library's vast collections, and include illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, posters, prints, photographs and more. The subject matter extends far beyond New York City, giving this resource wide potential relevance. Users can search for materials using basic and advanced options, or by browsing by subject. The Library has also grouped images to form collections, for example “Ornament and Pattern: Pre-Victorian Art Deco” and “Vintage Holiday Postcards”. Images are of very good quality, non-commercial uses are encouraged, and it’s easy to acquire rights and high-quality TIFFs for publishing.

Oxford Art Online

Oxford Art Online is both an excellent informational resource for the study of the visual arts and an image search engine. At the main page you can choose between an informational search and one that only returns images, with these images being of good quality. While Oxford itself hosts only 6000 or so images, available articles often include links to external image resources such as museum websites.

Oxford University Digital Collections

Oxford University offers a number of its special collections, particularly those from the Bodleian Library, in digital form. Collections are disparate in subject, from Athenian pottery to 18th and 19th century board games and at present are presented in isolation, with no cross-collection browse or search options available. Images vary in quality by collection, some are large and high resolution, others are small and pixilated.

Smithsonian Archives Image Gallery

The Smithsonian Archives Image Gallery offers a single interface for the browsing and searching of the vast holdings of the Smithsonian’s many sub-institutions, including the National Museum of the American Indian, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and National Anthropological Archives. Users can browse by sub-institution, subjects, or object types, or access images using keyword searching. A variety of media types are available, including very good quality still and moving images, sound files, transcriptions, etc., and users can limit searches by media type.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum, a UK based institution dedicated to the decorative arts and material culture, makes a substantial portion of its collection available in digital format through its online image database. The database has more than 1 million entries, with metadata and image quality varying from record to record. The search functionality allows users to restrict results to only the highest quality records, and other search and browse features are both extensive and intuitive. The V&A also makes acquiring image rights and high quality digital files extremely easy (and when possible free) by incorporating “shopping cart” style ordering into the site.

Visual Arts Data Service

The Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) makes available more than 100,000 images across 45 different collections submitted by participating UK institutions. Collections of particular interest include “Designing Britain” from the Design Archives at the University of Brighton and the “John Johnson Collection of Trades and Professions”. Collections can be searched by keyword or, using the advanced search options, within individual fields, and both metadata and images are of good quality from collection to collection.

Web Gallery of Art

The Web Gallery of Art is an online database of more than 24,000 digital images of European painting and sculpture from the Romanesque period through Romanticism. Its coverage of both major and minor artists is extensive, and significant works often have multiple details available. The site also includes guided tours for periods and places, biographies for many creators, and a glossary with definitions of subjects, materials, and more. Metadata and image quality are both good, search options are extensive, and browsing is intuitive. If you need images of painting or sculpture to supplement a paper or presentation this is an excellent resource.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons hosts more than 6 million media files contributed to the site by users. Images range across all subjects, time periods and geographic regions and, because users contribute them, will necessarily vary in their quality and the extent of their metadata. Virtually all images made available through Wikimedia Commons (though not necessarily Wikipedia) may be freely re-used without the granting of individual permissions, though copyright information is supplied by contributors and should be verified if you choose to publish or publicly display any provided media.

Wikimedia Free Image Resources          

Wikimedia’s Free Image Resources page features links to sites exclusively or primarily hosting freely usable digital images. These links are categorized by subject and briefly described. While similar in form and concept to Wikimedia's Public Domain Image Resources page the links themselves are generally unique.

Wikimedia Public Domain Image Resources   

Wikimedia’s Public Domain Image Resources page features links to sites exclusively or primarily hosting public domain digital images. These links are categorized by subject and briefly described. While similar in form and concept to Wikimedia's Free Image Resources page the links themselves are generally unique.

World Digital Library

The World Digital Library offers historically significant primary documents (including books, manuscripts, and still and motion pictures) from all inhabited regions of the world in high quality digital format. One can browse by region, time period, object type and more, or search by keyword. Individual images can be saved as high quality TIFFs; multi-page works can be saved page-by-page as TIFFs, or as whole documents in PDF format; and video and audio recordings are available for download as MPEGs or MP3s, respectively.


WorldImages, the product of the California State University system’s IMAGE project, contains nearly 75,000 images representing the arts, sciences, history, material culture, and natural and built environments of virtually all human cultures. Images are grouped into more than 800 portfolios (such as “Food & Kitchens”), which are further organized into subject groupings (“Material Culture & Daily Life”), allowing users to browse related groups of images

Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library offers more than 250,000 digitized images of photographs, textual documents, illuminated manuscripts, maps, works of art, and books in the Beinecke's collections. Images are browsable by subject specific collections, such “Book of Secrets: Alchemy and the European Imagination, 1500-2000” and “Russian Graphic Art and the Revolution of 1905”, or searchable using keywords or extensive advanced search options. Throughout all collections the metadata and image quality is excellent.

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