General Image 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.


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).

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.

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.

Visual Arts Data Service (VADS)

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.

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.

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

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