Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Free, high resolution images

Te Papa Blog, Get Downloading – 20 great GLAM websites for free high resolution images, 1 March 2016


Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, 1650 – 1683 by Jan Davidsz. de Heem. Oil on copper. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest). Public domain. Rijksmuseum (SK-C-214)

People often ask me where they can find images of collection items that they can reuse for free. There is no single website hosting all of the reusable images available so I thought I’d list my favourite galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) that make at least some images of their collections freely available for reuse. If you’ve got a spare 5 minutes go and have an explore.

Te Papa, 50,000+ images

Top of my list is, of course, Te Papa. I’m biased I know. About eighteen months ago we launched open access images in Collections Online. Users can download and reuse certain images of collection items, rights permitting. There are now over 50,000 images of Te Papa collection items are available for you to download and reuse. 33,800 with No Known Copyright Restrictions for any use whatsoever including commercial use and 24,600 usable under the terms of the Creative Commons copyright licence Attribution – Non-commercial – No derivative works (CC BY-NC-ND). The image resolution is variable but we provide the highest resolution we have available. You can find them by checking the “with downloadable images” checkbox and entering a search term in Collections Online.

Rijksmuseum, Netherlands, 200,000+ images

The Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands has a really nice website and a beautiful collection. My favourites are the floral still lifes and the Japanese prints. In order to get downloading you just need to sign up to the Rijksstudio. Signing up allows you to collect groups of items and also to zoom in, crop and save details of artworks. Best of all you get access to downloadable high resolution images. If you’re publicly distributing copies it’s best practice to credit the Rijksmuseum as the source of the images but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

New York Public Library, USA, 180,000+ images

The NYPL launched this service just weeks ago. When you type into the search box a check box becomes available to filter results to show only public domain material. It’s the public domain material that is available for any use. Just like the Rijksmuseum, the New York Public Library doesn’t require a credit as the image source.

The Getty, USA, 100,000+ images

This link to the Getty collection allows you to search on only those images that are available for download and open reuse for any purpose. Like most of institutions the Getty has some items that remain in copyright and so aren’t available for you to download and reuse but using this link avoids the images with restrictions. The Getty gives image caption information for you to use when publishing the image and also asks that you use the credit “Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.”

Yale Centre for British Art, Yale University, USA, 69,000+ images

The majority of this collection is in the public domain. The rights status and the download button is on the object page so you need to click into the object record webpage to get access. If the work is one of the few in this collection that remains in copyright, the download functionality won’t be there. This organisation released another 22,000 images on the first of January so enjoy looking through the new images.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 45,000+ images

The National Gallery of Art, Washington have created a separate website for their open reuse images so you don’t need to filter your search results. The maximum size of the images is 4000 pixels at the longest edge. This is a generous image size. It won’t print on the side of a bus but it will give you a good poster before the image starts to pixelate.They ask that you credit the image you use as “Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington”. If you look at their list of most popular downloads you’ll see some familiar artworks by Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA

The LACMA have public domain images available for high resolution download and reuse without restriction. Protected content – the content where rights still exist – is not available to download. They let you know when you select an image whether it’s public domain or protected. Unfortunately you can’t filter on the rights statement so you need to be prepared to select another image if your favourite turns out to be protected content.

The Walters Art Museum, USA, 20,000+ images

Where possible the Walters Art Museum have licensed images using a Creative Commons Zero : No Rights Reserved (CC0) copyright licence. This licence waives all rights in the image. Unfortunately the collections online website doesn’t allow users to filter by rights so you’ll need to click into each of the object pages to find out whether the image is available for download. If you’re not sure what to search for check out their wikipedia page. It’s got a great overview of their collection.

National Library of New Zealand, 3611 images

The National Library has an open reuse policy and is working towards clearing images from its collections for open reuse. While it’s not the biggest number of images in this list, keep an eye on this collection as I expect it to grow over time. Probably the easiest way to download the images that are cleared for reuse is via theNational Library NZ Flickr Commons account. Library staff have worked on making images available on that platform as well as their own website.

British Library, 1 million+ images

The British Library has uploaded to Flickr over 1 million images with no known copyright restrictions. These images have been scanned from public domain books so vary in quality and image resolution. These are great if you’re using them for online use but some might be a bit small if you were thinking of printing them out. It’s always worth having a look though as there are so many that you’re bound to find something useful.

Internet Archive, 5.3 million+ images

The Internet Archive also holds scans of public domain books including scans of book plates and illustrations. They have also uploaded the images of these artworks to Flickr for open reuse. Again the resolution size might not be quite what you need if you’re printing them out but the images are fine for online use.

Library of Congress, USA, ? images

The Library of Congress have high resolution tiff files available for download of large portions of its collection. They do not provide copyright advice and instead it’s the user who is responsible for ensuring that the copyright is cleared. On the plus side they do give information on how to work out copyright duration.

Creative Commons Licenses
If you’re looking for high quality, high impact reusable images it’s worth putting some time in to learn about Creative Commons licenses. These are copyright licenses that are added to works by the copyright holder. If the copyright owner picks one of these licenses they grant you permission in advance for certain uses as long as you respect the terms of the licence. If you can’t meet the terms of the licence then you will need to go back to the copyright holder for permission.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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