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Image Research Guide

Use this guide to find various resources for your image research and scholarship in the visual arts.

Open Access Image Collections

Below is a brief list of digital repositories that contain high-resolution images available for public browsing and download. The following is not intended to be a comprehensive list of collections; rather, it presents archives, libraries and museums with searchable collection databases containing high-quality images in a browsable interface.

  • African & Asian Visual Artists Archive
    Archive of artwork by African and Asian artists working in the United Kingdom since the post-war period. 
  • Barnes Foundation Collections
    Browse one of the most impressive impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern painting collections. Allows works to be compared by color, light, space, and keyword.
  • Bildindex
    Bildindex is a freely accessible image database that contains over 2 million photographs of art and buildings in Germany and Europe.
  • British Museum
    Browse over 4.5 million art and objects in the British Museum's Digital Collection. Public Domain images may be used for non-commercial purposes with a Creative Commons license. Contact the VRC if you need to license an image. 
  • El Museo del Barrio
    Search the archive of El Museo del Barrio with works of art from Latinx, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures.
  • Frick Digital Collections
    Digital collection includes photo archive, book materials and archival documents.
  • Getty Search Gateway
    Search across the Getty repositories including collections databases, inventories, and archives. Images in the collection are cost-free and in the public domain. 
  • Images from the History of Medicine (NLM)
    Comprising almost 70,000 images from the Prints and Photographs Collection as well as other collections held in the History of Medicine Division, IHM is one of the largest image databases in the world dedicated to images of medicine, dentistry, public health, the health professions, and health institutions.
  • Library of Congress American Memory
    Collections relating to American history and culture. Maps, advertising, images of significant events and places, etc.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection 
    Online access to Prints and Photographs Division's holdings, including architecture, design, and engineering.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Browse over 490,000 images of artwork from around the world. Images in the collection are cost-free and in the public domain.
  • NYPL Digital Gallery
    Open access digital collection with over 700,000 images digitized from The New York Public Library. Low-resolution images are for personal, educational, and research purposes. Contact the VRC if you need a high-resolution image.
  • Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS)
    Searching gateway for the Archives of American Art catalog, National Inventory of American Paintings Executed before 1914, Inventory of American Sculpture, Archives of American Gardens catalog, and other resources. 

Use the open-access public collections below to browse images, manuscripts, and more. The Public Collections below typically have Creative Commons licenses, which means the creator has surrendered some but not all of their rights under copyright law. Take note of the copyright status for each image you reference in your research.

  • Creative Commons

    Access Creative Commons licensed images, videos, and more.

  • Digital Public Library of America 
    The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) offers a single point of access to millions of items including photographs, manuscripts, moving images, and more, from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States.
  • Europeana 
    Digital collection with thousands of art, books, film, and music from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums across Europe.
  • Flickr: The Commons 
    Access public photo collections from institutions and photographers worldwide.
  • Wikimedia Commons 
    A repository for public domain and freely-licensed images, sound and video clips for educational purposes.

Google Images can be a convenient starting point for your research, but it may not fully meet your scholarly requirements. Internet search engines are unable to locate the highest quality digitized materials found in archives, museums, and libraries. Additionally, they often reference external websites that are not the original source of the material. While Google can be used, it is not advisable to rely solely on it for your scholarly work.

Below are some tips on how to navigate Google's reverse image searching, utilize rights-free filters, and explore museums that utilize the Arts & Culture feature.

  • Google Arts & Culture
    Google partners with museums and cultural heritage institutions from across the world to provide high-resolution images and 360-views of galleries.

  • Google Image Search 
    Select "free to use" from the Usage Rights dropdown to find various rights-free or Creative Commons images. 

  • Google Reverse Image Searching
    Reverse image searching is a great way to browse images from a secondary source such as a press release, blog, or another website. Click on the small camera icon in the search bar in Google. This will give you the option to upload an image or you can paste an image hyperlink in the search field.