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Drexel Library

Open Access Images: Home

This resource guide is a jumping-off point for finding Open Access Images.

Tips for Using Open Access Images

Remember that not all Open Access Images are licensed the same way. Always double-check the usage rights for any image that you plan on using, no matter the nature of your use. If the usage rights are not on the main page of any of the resources below, they are linked in the How can I use it section of each description.

Keep in mind these possible related limitations on image use:

  1. Trademark: While an image may be open access, if it contains a trademarked image, this may complicate use of the image.
  2. Model (Privacy) Release: If the image is of a recognizable person / model, and that model did not allow for commercial use of their likeness, it may complicate use of the image.
  3. Attribution / Terms of Use: While some images may be available for re-use, the person / corporation who holds the copyright may still require recognition when you use an image. Always check the terms and agreements before copying an image.

Government Resources (History)

American Memory Collection 

  • What is in the collection: Multimedia, primary sources of American history. The aim of the collection is to create a digital record of American history and creativity.  Subjects include historical figures, women's history, and historical maps. This database also includes audio and video files as well as manuscripts. 
  • Who runs it: The Library of Congress 
  • How can I use it: The Library of Congress suggests that its material be used for non-profit, educational use. When possible, the Library provides a statement of ownership and usage rights for each image. Be sure to check. 

Government Resources (Natural Sciences)

NASA ArtSpace 

  • What is in the collection: Images of celestial objects and NASA events. Collections of interest include pictures of the moon landing, pictures taken by the Hubble telescope, and pictures of the solar system. This database also contains open access sounds and video. 
  • Who runs it: NASA 
  • How can I use itAll images are in the public domain. You cannot use the NASA logo or images containing the logo. You cannot use the images in a way that implies that your work is endorsed by NASA.

Natural Resources Conservation Service Photo Gallery

  • What is in the collection: Natural resource and conservation related photos. Subjects include wildlife, backyard conservation efforts, and scenic shots.  
  • Who runs it: United States Department of Agriculture 
  • How can I use it: All images are in the public domain and may be re-used for any purpose with the exception of photos including people, which should not be used commercially. If images are used for a publication, attribution is required. You cannot use the images in a way that implies that your work is endorsed by USDA.

Agricultural Research Service Images  

  • What is in the collection: Photographs taken by the Agricultural Research Service Information Staff. Images of nature (animals, insects, food, etc.) and field research conducted by this department. 
  • Who runs it: United States Department of Agriculture 
  • How can I use itImages are in the public domain unless noted otherwise. If copyright is listed in the image info, it is not in the public domain. Images may be used for any purpose, but use cannot imply endorsement by ARS.

US Fish and Wildlife National Digital Library  

  • What is in the collection: Photographs taken by the US Fish and Wildlife Department staff as well as illustrations that have passed out of copyright. Subjects include species of fish, birds, and mammals, as well as photos of conservation efforts. This database also includes video and audio files.  
  • Who runs it: US Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • How can I use it: Images are in the public domain and free for re-use unless otherwise noted. The department requests that users credit the photographers / department. Not all music used in the video files is licensed for re-use. Check for usage information.

US National Park Service   

  • What is in the collection: Photographs taken by US National Park Service staff and images that have passed out of copyright. Subjects include nature (scenery, animals, etc), structures (lighthouses, historical buildings, etc.) and events hosted in national parks. 
  • Who runs it: US National Park Service 
  • How can I use itImages are in the public domain and free for re-use unless otherwise noted. Images with a copyright notice are not in the public domain: you must ask for permission to use these images from the rightsholder. Check for the Usage Information field of each image.

US Antarctic Program Photo Library  

  • What is in the collection: Photos taken by researchers studying the Antarctic. Subjects include scenery, wildlife, and scientific equipment. 
  • Who runs it: US Antarctic Program / National Science Foundation 
  • How can I use it: Educational institutions are free to re-use images with appropriate credit. Photos may not be used for commercial profit.

US National Science Foundation (NSF) Photo Library  

  • What is in the collection: Science related images curated by the National Science Foundation. Subjects include nanoparticles, minerals, and weather shots. This database also includes audio and video. 
  • Who runs it: National Science Foundation 
  • How can I use itAll images are free to re-use for non-profit, educational purposes but must be credited. Images credited to the National Science Foundation are in the public domain and may be used for any purpose. Additional restrictions may apply to specific images: check for usage information.  

Open Parks Network 

  • What is in the collection: Cultural heritage objects and grey literature from the libraries, museums, and archives of the nation’s parks, historic sites, and other protected areas.
  • Who runs it: The National Parks Service
  • How can I use itA majority of works are in the public domain and can be used freely for any purpose. Items for which copyright is unknown or unclear are marked accordingly. If you wish to use these items, contact the open parks network for additional information.

 

Government Resources (Medicine and Public Health)

Public Health Image Library (PHIL) 

  • What is in the collection: A variety of medical photos and images related to public health. Collections of interest include EM Photography, health care workers interacting with patients, and natural disasters. 
  • Who runs it: The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) 
  • How can I use it:  Most images in this database are in the Public Domain and are free to use for any purpose. Some images are copyright protected, so check the Fair Use statement listed on the record page of each item to make sure the item is safe to use. CRC also asks that you credit the artist and link back to the database whenever possible.

National Cancer Institute Image Library  

  • What is in the collection: Medical and public health related photos and illustrations. Subjects include patient-care illustrations, NCI staff, and biomedical images.  
  • Who runs it: National Cancer Institute 
  • How can I use it: Many images are in the public domain and may be re-used with appropriate crediting. Subject release forms have been obtained by most photos of people. Check each image for usage information.

Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

The Public Domain Review  

  • What is in the collection: Images and illustrations curated from works outside of the scope of copyright. Collections of interest include beards of time, Wellcome Library's collection of public domain images, and a photo collection of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. The Review also contains collections of audio and video in the public domain. 
  • Who runs it: The Open Knowledge Foundation 
  • How can I use itA majority of works are free of any use restrictions. Each image lists any potential copyright and potential restrictions on use. 

OpenGLAM  

  • What is in the collection: A portal to a number of galleries, libraries, archives, and museums from around the world that support open access collections. 
  • Who runs it: The Open Knowledge Foundation
  • How can I use it: Licensing differs between collections, so check to see how each image may be used. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  

  • What is in the collection: photographs of the Met's art collections. Collections of interest include photos of the paintings of Goya, Rembrandt, and photos of Native American artifacts. 
  • Who runs it: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • How can I use it: Many images in this collection have few usage restrictions. Check the copyright status listed in the record of each item. Images ok to use are labeled as OASC (Open Access for Scholarly Content). These images may be downloaded and used for non-commercial, educational, and personal use only. Users must cite the author and source of the images, including a link back to the site.  

National Gallery of Art Images  

  • What is in the collection: photographs of the National Gallery of Art's collections. Collections of interest include photographs of music-themed paintings and illustrations and photos of popular NGA works of art. 
  • Who runs it: The National Gallery of Art 
  • How can I use it: Many images in this collection are in the public domain and may be used for any purpose. Not all images in the collection are open access. Check the Image Use field in the item record to make sure that it is free to use.

Smithsonian Open Access

  • What is in the collection: More than 2.8 million 2D and 3D images of art and artifacts from the Smithsonian collection.  
  • Who runs it: The Smithsonian Institute 
  • How can I use itAll images are available under a CC0 license.

Yale University Art Gallery  

  • What is in the collection: photo representation of works in the public domain that are part of Yale's on campus collections. Collections of interest include photos of ancient art and coins and medals.  
  • Who runs it: Yale University 
  • How can I use it: Many images in these collections are in the public domain and may be used for any purpose. Not all images in the collection are open access. check the Rights statement (listed under the image) in the item record to make sure that it is free to use.

Creative Commons Search Engines

Google Images

  • What is in the collection: Google Images' license filter allows you to limit your search of all Images indexed by Google to those marked as available for reuse. Images run the gamut of all subjects. Click the Search Tools option on your search results page to limit by Usage Rights.
  • Who runs it: Google Inc.
  • How can I use it: You can limit your search results to images labeled as available for re-use, noncommercial re-use, re-use with modification, or noncommercial re-use with modification. Make sure to click-through to the image's source page, as Google Image's license filter is not always reliable.

Creative Commons Search Tool  

  • What is in the collection: This is an amalgamated search engine for many popular sites containing open access and public domain media content. Search results will return stock images, photographs, and clip art. This search tool also allows users to search for open access audio and video content. 
  • Who runs it: The Creative Commons 
  • How can I use it: Search results will contain images regulated by various CC licenses as well as images in the public domain. While the search engine is regulated by CC, the search results are not. Always double check that the images you find in these searches are licensed correctly before use.

Flickr  

  • What is in the collection: Flickr maintains a database of user submitted photographs and images. All uploaded images may be licensed by their creators as free for reuse. Flickr also runs a public domain images project called The Commons.
  • Who runs it: Flickr 
  • How can I use it: You can limit your search results to images that may be modified / re-used commercially. Always double check to make the image is legitimately licensed. 

Open Access Images (Artist Released)

Pixabay  

  • What is in the collection: A wide variety of stock photos all in the public domain. Collections of interest include people, nature, and objects. Please note that Pixabay also displays links to Shutterstock images, which are clearly marked and proprietary. 
  • Who runs it: Created by Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger. Collection is maintained by the photographers who release their works into the public domain. 
  • How can I use it: Most images are in the public domain and may be re-used for any purpose. Images of certain content (ex people, trademarked objects, private property) may have certain restrictions on use. Check the record for the image.

TheStocks.im  

  • What is in the collection: A compilation of links to different collections of photos from the public archives as well as photos / illustrations released by their creators into the public domain.  
  • Who runs it: Various artists who have released their works into the public domain 
  • How can I use it: A majority of images are in the public domain (CC0). Check the usage for each collection. 

Photos Public Domain  

  • What is in the collection: A wide variety of stock photos all in the public domain. Collections of interest include people, nature, objects, and textures. 
  • Who runs it: The collection is maintained by a family of photographers, who take all of the pictures found on the site. 
  • How can I use itAll images have been released by the photographers into the public domain. They are free to use, but keep in mind that no model release forms have been signed, so your use of the pictures of people may be limited. You may not claim copyright on these images.
  • What is in the collection: High resolution images, vectors, clip art, logo templates, Photoshop brushes, and web templates. Images are organized into collections with a common subject or theme. The site also provide Photoshop tutorials. NOTE that this site hosts a Premium section containing images that are not free to use.
  • Who runs it: Founded and owned by Bjorgvin Gudmundsson, a graphic designer.
  • How can I use it: Images are licensed as either Non-Commercial, Commercial, or Public Domain (CC0). Make sure to check the license of each image to make sure hte license meets your needs.

Wikimedia Commons  

  • What is in the collection: a variety of photographs taken by various independent artists, as well as images from various public domain collections and images pulled from Wikipedia via bot script. The Commons also contains collections of audio and video files. 
  • Who runs it: The Wikimedia Foundation
  • How can I use it: Images are licensed under a variety of open access licenses, a majority of which are CC0. Check the permission info under each image to find out how it can be used. 

Open Clipart 

  • What is in the collection: Icons and simple images (e.g. clip art) 
  • Who runs it: The database is maintained by the artists who submit content.
  • How can I use it: Images are available for unlimited commercial re-use. 

Librarian

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Katherine Fischer
Contact:
Drexel University Libraries
W. W. Hagerty Library
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Philadelphia, PA 19104
215.895.6783