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A&Ae: Art & Architecture ePortal

E-book resource featuring scholarship in the history of art, architecture, decorative arts, photography, and design. A&Ae features many out-of-print titles, key backlist, and recent releases, as well as born-digital content. Publishing partners include Yale University Press, Bard Graduate Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University Press, MIT Press, Princeton University Press, Yale University Art Gallery, Dallas Museum of Art, Paul Mellon Centre and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and more.


The Ad*Access Project, funded by the Duke Endowment "Library 2000" Fund, presents images and information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955.


Archnet is an open access  resource focused on architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design, conservation issues, visual and material cultures, and other topics related to the built environment, with a focus on societies in which Muslims are or have been a significant cultural presence.

Art World in Britain, 1660-1735

This database contains key primary sources for the study of the visual arts in late Stuart and early Hanoverian Britain. Included are indexes and reference materials, such a biographical dictionary, over 17,000 newspaper advertisements, a checklist of paintings during this period and auction catalogues.


Artnet's Decorative Art Database contains auction records of over 3 million decorative art objects from ancient antiquities to contemporary decorative arts. Results includes comprehensive descriptions, provenance information, bibliographies, images, and essays from the actual auction catalog as well as estimates and prices realized. Over 240 auction houses are represented and sales results go back to January 2000.

Bard College Library Databases

BGC users also have access to databases provided by Stevenson Library at Bard College.

Beazley Archive

Classical Art Research Centre's antiquities database allows you to search art, pottery, gems, sculpture and architectural terracottas. It also has over 10,000 images of Greek/Roman sculpture and 200,000 images of Greek pottery.

Berg Fashion Library

This database offers fully cross-searchable access to an expanding range of Berg content collections including the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress online, e-books, reference works, images, and much more.

BHA (Bibliography of the History of Art)

Indexes and abstracts books, articles, dissertations, conference proceedings, and catalogs published on American and European art of all eras. The Getty provides access to BHA and to the Répertoire international de la littérature de l'art (RILA).

Blue Mountain Project

This collection contains fully searchable issues of important periodicals of the European avant-garde.

British Library

The British Library makes available 30,000 digital images representing key objects from its 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, such as 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 although 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 are searchable by keyword. Images are available in high-resolution zoomable form, but are only downloadable as average quality JPEGs.


Searchable encyclopedia containing chemical, physical, visual, and analytical information on historic and contemporary materials used in the conservation, preservation, and production of artistic, architectural, and archaeological materials. Includes images, including photos and drawings of materials' outward appearance, as well as analytical image records of microscopic and spectroscopic characteristics. Also contains links to commercial records, Material Safety Data Sheets, and to conservation organizations across the world.

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. Requesting the rights to reproduce images is a fairly straightforward process, with an online form linked from each catalogue entry.

CoPA (Commercial Pattern Archive)

A collection of commercial pattern data, including images, from several large commercial pattern collections in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.: the database functions like a catalog of patterns and collections that researchers and designers can use to re-create or date clothing from 1868 to 2000.  A user name and password are required for access. Contact the library staff for the log-in information.

Database Machine Drawings

Database Machine Drawings (DMD) was developed by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and makes available more than 1,600 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.

Early English Books Online (EEBO)

Contains digital facsimile images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473 to 1700.


Search for texts, videos, sound, and images from many European museums, archives, and libraries. Note that the site does not include collections outside of Europe, commercial projects, or websites.


Flickr is an image-hosting and -sharing website which claims to host more than 4 billion digital images uploaded by its users. Although 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. Since the images are generated entirely by users, the image quality varies widely (although they are often available as large JPEGs), as will the quality, extent and accuracy of metadata. Note that 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).


Online database from the Bibliothèque nationale de France offering a wide variety of fully scanned and searchable art resources, including auction catalogues.

Great Buildings Collection

Great Buildings Collection is an excellent online resource for information about and images of architecture. The site features 1,200 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 3-D 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 they are good

Harvard University Digital Collections

Harvard University makes a number of its special collections available in digitized form, which range widely by object type and subject matter. Highlights include “Studies in Scarlet: Marriage & Sexuality in the U.S. and U.K., 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 they range generally from good to excellent.


International advertising & design database

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 the 21st century. The collection uses the Luna interface to browse, search, and download images, which are of excellent quality and have excellent metadata.

Internet Archive

A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. The site includes the Wayback Machine, a digital archive of the World Wide Web.

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.

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 (e.g. 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 BGC does not have) from participating institutions. These include the 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 preeminent art museum in the United States and holds more than 2 million works of art representing all periods, cultures, and manners of human creative production. 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, 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

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, and 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 its collection available for browsing and searching online. Of particular interest are the more than 6,000 works in the Department of Architecture and Design, which range from the mid-19th century to the present and represent 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 more than 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, such as “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.

NYC Archaeological Repository

The NYC Archaeological Repository is a digital collection of the city's archaeological artifacts from over 32 sites within New York City. The records have excavation site and project descriptions as well as images of each artifact found within. 

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 19thcentury 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, whereas others are small and pixelated.


Full-text 19th- and early 20th-century art journals including The Studio, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, and Art et Décoration. Part of the Arts:Search (formerly designinform) package.

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 Smithsonian 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.

Thesaurus for Graphic Materials

The Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM) provides a substantial body of terms for the subject, genre and format indexing of pictorial materials. Developed to support the cataloging and retrieval needs of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, it is made publicly available in the hope that it will promote standardization in image cataloging. When searching TGM users can link to related images from the Library's Prints and Photographs catalog.

Transferware Collectors Club Patterns and Sources

This database provides members with easy online access to a valuable source of information about transfer-printed patterns and their sources. Patterns can be searched under Pattern (and Series) Name, Maker’s Name, Maker's Marks, Pattern Category, Border, Predominant Features, and by the Print and Ceramic Sources that inspired them.  A user name and password are required for access. Contact the library staff for the log-in information.

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 U.K. 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 by using the advanced search options, within individual fields, and both metadata and images are of good quality from collection to collection.

Vogue Archive

A complete searchable archive of American Vogue, from the first issue in 1892 to the current month, reproduced in high-resolution color page images.

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. This is an excellent resource for images of painting or sculpture to supplement a paper or presentation.

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.

William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive

This database comprises of biographies and primary source materials on 19th century, Texas artisans & artists in ceramics, furniture, textiles, metalworks, photographs, paintings, and works on paper.

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. The metadata and image quality are excellent throughout all collections.