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Open Access Images & Videos

This guide lists collections with images in the public domain and are available for re-use. Some collections may still have restrictions so check for any limitations in use.

Open Access

Infographic on Open Access Images

General Image Searches

DPLA (Digital Public Library of America)

  • What can you find:  Search results will include a variety if image types, such as photographs, clip art, animated clips and line drawings.
  • How can you use it:  You can filter search results by usage rights (such as "Labeled for reuse with modification").
Burmese cat

Burmese Cat Chocolate

September 7, 2017


Pixabay (Google Images)

*Image captions follow the recommended format from The New School Libraries and Archives

  • What can you find:  The collection includes photographs and videos.
  • How can you use it:  Flickr allows users to license their works to others. Select the Any License option to filter the types of images you want to use.


Wikimedia Commons 

  • What can you find: 
  • How can use it: Use keyword search or browse by topic. Take note of licensing. Some images are in the public domain. Other images may have the following classifications: 
    • Some licenses require that the original creator be attributed.
    • Some licenses require that the specific license be identified when reusing.
    • Some licenses require that if you modify the work, your modifications must also be similarly freely licensed.


Smithsonian Open Access

  • What can you find: Millions of digital items from the Smithsonian’s collections covering a variety of subject areas. (2.8 million at February 2020 launch).
  • How can you use it: They have released these images and data into the public domain as Creative Commons Zero (CC0), meaning you can use, transform, and share our open access assets without needing permission.


Creative Commons Image Search (Metasearch)

  • What can you find:  You can search for photographs, clip art, music, videos, and more. 
  • How can you use it: Creative Commons offers an easy way to search a variety of services, like Wikimedia Commons and Flickr. CC has no control over the results that are returned, so you should make sure that the work is under a creative commons license.

Search by Institution Type

Below is a selection of image collections listed by resource type. 

Museums and Libraries

The British Library Flickr Commons Photostream

  • What can you find: Over 1 million images scanned from pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books in the library. Includes maps, geological diagrams, illustrations, illuminated and decorative letters, paintings, etc. Browse all images or by album. You can also search by keyword. 
  • How can you use it: Many of these images have no known copyright restrictions and are free to use. You can apply a creative commons license to any images under copyright. 
British Library The First Quadrille Illustration 1852 Grego, Joseph,
"The first quadrille at Almack's" from 

The Reminiscences and Recollections of Captain Gronow,
Color illustration

The British Library

The Chicago Art Institute

  • What can you find: The museum allow viewers to over 50,000 images of works from their collection. When searching the collection, filter results by selecting Public Domain.
  • How can you use it: The museum offers free, unrestricted use of works in the collection believed to be in the public domain or to which the museum otherwise waives any copyright. Images have been made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

Katsushika Hokusai.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura),

from the series "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei)."




  • What you can find: The website includes over 58 millions images from art, artifacts, books, films, and music from European museums, galleries, libraries, and archives. 
  • How you can use it: Over 13 million images are labels as "free to use." However, you will find additional images with creative commons licenses. 


The Getty: The J. Paul Getty Museum Open Content Program

  • What can you find:  Over 99,000 images are available for download based on objects from the collection (paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, etc.)
  • How can you use it: The Getty allows re-use (no restrictions) of all images that it holds the rights to (no permission required). The collection also includes images in the public domain. 


Library of Congress Digital Collections 

  • What can you find:  Includes millions of objects from the collections, including print, images, and audio-visual items. Highlights: books, newspapers, manuscripts, prints and photographs, maps, musical scores, films, sound recordings. 
  • How can you use it: As a publicly supported institution, the Library does not hold the rights to the images. However, many images are in the public domain. Each collection should include its own rights statement. No permission fees. The Library generally does not grant or deny permission to publish. Learn more about copyright for the Library's collections.


New York Public Library - Digital Gallery

  • What can you find: NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to almost 800,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library's collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more. Over 180,000 of these images are in the public domain
  • How can you use it: Browse items that have no known U.S. copyright restrictionsor you can can limit a keyword search to the "Search only public domain items" option in the upper left corner. These images have no known U.S. copyright restrictions, which includes its photographs.


  • What can you find: International collection of images from libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions. 
  • How can you use it: Search all collections at once or by tags/subjects. The participating institutions have provided digital scans or photos that can be freely used without any restrictions. 


Smithsonian Institution: Flickr Photostream

  • What can you find: Over 3,000 photographs collected from Smithsonian staff and outside sources. Images represent a broad range of subjects and themes in the fields of art, history, culture and science.
  • How can you use it: All photographs are under a Creative Commons license through Flickr.




  • What can you find: Access to the digital collections of the libraries, archives and museums in the University of California System. Includes over 1,150,000 images, texts and recordings.
  • How can you use it: Images have different copyright licenses. Some images and media are in the public domain and free to use. Others are owned by the University, and you can contact them directly, but others may be owned by a third party. Each item should have information attached. You can also read their Terms of Use

Yale Digital Content

  • What can you find:  Search across Yale's collections of art, natural history, books and maps, as well as photos, audio, and video documenting Yale's history. Items come from the organizations below:
    • Office of Digital Dissemination
    • Open Yale Courses
    • Yale Center for British Art
    • Yale Peabody Museum
    • Yale University Art Gallery
    • Yale University Library
  • How can you use it: Not all materials are unrestricted so users need to check before using. You can read Yale's commitment to open access is detailed in Permissions and Copyright

Search by Subject

Below is a selection of image collections listed by subject area. 


Art and Architecture

Artstor Public Collections

  • What can you find: Approximately 1 million freely accessible images, videos, documents, and audio files from library special collections, faculty research and institutional history materials, as well as hundreds of thousands of open access images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • How can you use it: Anyone can view and download these items. No login or subscription is required. 

Brooklyn Museum

  • What can you find: The internationally-focused art collection includes objects in a variety of mediums, including painting, photography, drawings, sculpture, decorative arts and more. The advanced search options include searching by collection, medium, artist nationality and time period.
  • How can you use it:   Some rights reserved (Creative Commons logo  Copyright © 2004–2015 the Brooklyn Museum). Use of text and images in which Brooklyn Museum holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. The advanced search also allows you to filter your search by copyright status (Creative Commons licenses or no known copyright; Copyright status unknown, Copyright status unknown - orphaned work).

Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • What can you find: Museum collection reflects over 5,000 years of art from around the world and includes paintings, decorative objects, drawings, sculptures, etc. Collections cover additional subject areas, such as history and archeology.
  • How can you use it:  The Museum has implemented Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) policy, and if an image has an OASC icon the museum believes it to be in the public domain and free from restrictions. All of these images are available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Search over 375,000 hi-res images of public-domain works from the collection (search filtered by Open Access limiter). They can be downloaded, shared and remixed without restriction.

In the Style of Ogata Kenzan, 1663–1743
Camellia by Water, 1741
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
12 x 17 3/4 in. (30.5 x 45.1 cm)
From the Collection of H.O. Havemeyer

Metropolitan Museum of Art

NGA Images (National Gallery of Art)

  • What can you find: Over 51,000 open access digital images (up to 4000 pixels). 
  • How can you use it: The museum's open access policy applies to digital images of artwork that the Gallery believes be in the public domain. Each image is available free of charge for download and use (commercial or non-commercial). Users do not need to contact the Gallery for authorization.

The Rijksmuseum

  • What can you find:  OAI API Collection is a set of more than 110,000 object descriptions and digital images from the museum collection
  • How can you use it: Images can be downloaded or shared for non-commercial use. Must create a personal account.


American Memory Collection: Photos and Prints (Library of Congress)

  • What can you find:: Links to photography and print collections, grouped by theme (such as Civil War maps, baseball cards, etc.).
  • How can I use it: Most images are in the public domain in the US, but make sure to check the “Copyright and Other Restrictions” page of each collection. Also, be aware of privacy and publicity rights if you intend to use images for trade or advertising purposes.

National Archives Digital Photography Collections

  • What can you find: List of public domain photography collections dating from the 19th century. Collections include the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. 
  • How can you use it: Search by collection. Most images are in the public domain. 

Public Domain: Making History

  • What can you find: Over 1,000 government-produced photographs
  • How can you use it: These images are believed to be in the public domain and available for all uses.

Schlesinger Library on the History of Women: Flickr Photostream

  • What can you find: Schlesinger Library (part of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University) documents the history of women in America. Collection strengths include Women's rights and feminism; Health and sexuality; and Culinary history. Almost 5,000 images (photographs, illustrations, images related to manuscripts)
  • How can you use it: Many images are in the public domain. If the Library owns the copyright, they do provide permission and in most cases, the Library does not require researchers to request permission. There are fees for ordering reproductions but no charge for image use.The rights statement provides additional information. 



The Messier Catalog

  • What can you find: Astronomy images from Messier deep space objects (nebulae, clusters, galaxies, etc.). Each images has descriptive text. 
  • How can you use it: Most images are in the public domain for private use. Some of the pictures, however, are under copyright, as indicated by a tag on the picture.

NASA ArtSpace

  • What can you find: Images of celestial objects and NASA events.
  • How can you use it: These images are in the public domain and free to use. 


US Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library

  • What can you find: Digitized images of US. Army Corps of Engineers projects, special events, and historical records. 
  • How can you use it: These images are in the public domain and free to use. 

Earth Sciences

US Geological Survey Multimedia Gallery

  • What can you find: Geological images include photographs, maps, graphs, illustrations, etc. 
  • How can you use it: Government images should be marked as in the Public Domain. Browse by image type and then filter by topic, location, and date.

Health Sciences

National Cancer Institute Image Library

  • What can you find: Medical and public health related photos and illustrations. Subjects include patient-care illustrations, NCI staff and  biomedical images. 
  • How can I use it: Most images are in the public domain and may be re-used (most photos subjects have signed release forms), but the Institute asks to be credited. Check each image for usage information.

Wellcome Images

  • What can you find: This unique collections covers topics like medicine and social history, contemporary healthcare, and biomedical science.
  • How you can use it:  If an image is not marked ‘rights-managed’ then it is free to use at both high and low resolution

U.S. National Library of Medicine

  • What can you find: Free online repository of biomedical resources including books, manuscripts, still images, videos, and maps.
  • How you can use it: Content in Digital Collections is freely available worldwide and, unless otherwise indicated, it is in the public domain.

Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

  • What can you find: Images from the Center for Disease Control 
  • How can you use it: Usage is subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link.


US Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Media Library

  • What can you find: Hundreds of images related to fish and wildlife. Mostly photographs with some illustrations. 
  • How can you use it: Most images are in the public domain. If you use one of these images, you need to include an attribution.


Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - Division of Mammals

  • What can you find: This Smithsonian Division houses and maintains the world's largest mammal collection with over 600,000 specimens. 
  • How can you use it: Search by general keywords or by field. Results are currently limited to 5000 records, sorted by scientific name.

Search by Image Type

Stock Photos

  • What can you find: High-resolution images available for download and categorized into subjects, such as animals, nature, objects, people, urban and whimsical.
  • How can you use it: Copyright restrictions by been removed by the artist to allow for personal and commercial use. However, users can not claim the photos as their own creations. They also can not use the images to support product endorsements. Other usage restrictions are listed here


  • What can you find:  The collection includes wide variety of stock photos.
  • How you can it: All photos are free for personal and commercial use. Attribution is not required.

Photos Public Domain


  • What can you find: The collection includes wide variety of stock photos.
  • How can you use it: Photos are free to use for commercial and personal use. However, some photos come from other websites, like Shutterstock, and may not be in the public domain.


  • What can you find: The collection includes wide variety of stock photos.
  • How can you use it: Images are free for personal and commercial use. Search using the keyword search box or browse by discipline. You can also browse by unique categories: Whimsical, Artistic Vintage.
  • What can you find: The collection includes photographs, usually fine art photography. 
  • How you can use it: All photos are free for personal and commercial use. Attribution is not required but is appreciated.

Clip Art

Classroom Clipart

  • What can you find: Over 100,000 free clip art images, clipart, illustrations and photographs covering a variety of topics. Images are classroom and teaching themed.
  • How you can use it: Images can be freely used for personal and commercial use. Search images by subject, such as Sports Clipart, Weather Pictures, etc. Includes other image types in addition to clip art. 

Public Domain Clip Art

  • What can you find: Over 25,000 images cover a wide range of topics. Search by topic or use the keyword search box. 
  • How can you use it: The site believes all of the images to be in the public domain. 

Open Clip Art

  • What can you find: Images cover a range of topics. Clip art and image collections are uploaded by various artists. 
  • How can you use it: Images can be downloaded and edited. You can edit an image through the website by adding text, changing colors, adding shapes and stickers, re-sizing images, enhancing them, etc. The altered image can then be downloaded onto your computer. 
Spruce Trees Clip Art


Spruce Trees - variations of European spruce trees

February 21, 2017 

Clip art 

Filesize: 149702 byt


The information in this guide is credited to the following websites:

Drexel University

Elon University 


University of Pennsylvania

University of Warwick

Image captions follow the recommended format from The New School Libraries and Archives.