Prints, Photographs, and Maps

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.


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.

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 18th and 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.

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.

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.

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.

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