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Commercial Sources (a sampler)
Introduction: Scope and Arrangement of the List
A growing number of libraries, archives, and museums offer ready
access to their visual materials through Web-based searchable databases
that focus on photographs, prints, and drawings. The Prints and
Photographs Division, for instance, offers the Prints
and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), which provides access
to a large cross-section of images. Other institutions' databases
offer regional and subject strengths that may not be available
anywhere else. This list of online picture catalogs will help you
find historical, documentary images described and, often, pictured
in such databases.
The selection of about 50 catalogs is representative rather than
Out of scope are:
- It is limited to sites that emphasize online catalogs and
finding aids for pictorial collections.
- It highlights databases that cover historical and documentary
images in general subject areas, rather than those that focus
on a single topic.
- Most have more than 1,000 records and are predominately in
the English language.
- Many (not all) include digital images.
- When catalogs include non-pictorial materials, the search screens
make it obvious and easy to limit a query to still pictures.
Within the two categories, Libraries, Archives,
and Museums and Commercial
Sources (a sampler), entries are listed alphabetically by the name of the
- Web sites based on exhibit and gallery presentations
- commercial sites that sell original prints and photographs
- catalogs that feature art or slide reproductions.
The Library of Congress does not maintain most of these sites. Users should direct concerns about these links to their respective site administrators or webmasters.
American Antiquarian Society
Limit search to "Graphic Arts" to locate thousands of historical prints and numerous photographs. For engravings, use the Catalog of American Engravings, http://catalog.mwa.org:7108/. For online inventories of collections not yet in the catalog, use the Collection Access Chart, http://www.americanantiquarian.org/chart.htm.
American Institute of Physics
Emilio Segrè Visual Archives http://www.aip.org/history/esva/
More than 10,000 records with digital images from "a collection of more than 25,000
historical photographs, slides, lithographs, engravings, and other visual materials."
Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records
Historical Photograph Collection http://photos.lib.az.us/
More than 30,000 of 130,000 photographs are digitized and searchable online.
Arkansas History Commission
More than 2,000 photographs and digital images.
Boston Historical Society (The Bostonian Society)
One catalog retrieves photos and postcards. Another catalog covers prints and paintings. At least 10,000 digitized images.
Historical Photographs Online http://aabc.bc.ca/aabc/archphot.html
Provides links to databases describing more than 150,000 photographs and documentary
art at the British Columbia Archives, City of Vancouver, University of British
Columbia, and other repositories. Maintained by the Archives Association
of British Columbia.
Catalogue of Photographs http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/photographs/
"A detailed searchable database for locating photographs, photographically-illustrated books and texts relating to photography held in all departments of the British Library."
Online Gallery: Historic Photographs http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/photographicproject/index.html
Images Online http://www.imagesonline.bl.uk/
"A unique resource for commercial picture buyers, enabling you to license thousands of images from the British Library's unparalleled collections."
Library and Archives Canada
Archives Search http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/arch
Recently cataloged and digitized visual materials. Select “architectural and technical drawings,” “art,” or “photographic material.”
ArchiviaNet. Documentary Art http://www.archives.ca/02/020116_e.html
ArchiviaNet. Photographs http://www.archives.ca/02/020115_e.html
More than 175,000 records for drawings, paintings, and caricatures; with 10,000
digital images. Collections hold ca. 350,000 items. No longer being updated.
400,000 records for photographs; with 40,000
digital images. Collections have about
22 million photographs. No longer being updated.
Chicago History Museum (Chicago Historical Society)
Research Center, Archie, http://www.chsmedia.org:8081/
Select "advanced search" to focus on photographic collections, including digitized images.
Connecticut Historical Society, with the University of Connecticut and Mystic
Connecticut History Online http://www.cthistoryonline.org/
About 14,000 images of photographs, drawings, and prints.
Council of Nova Scotia Archives
Archway Photographic Database http://www.councilofnsarchives.ca/ArchWay/index.htm
Union catalog for photographs in archives throughout Nova Scotia.
Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy
Digital Image Collection http://history.denverlibrary.org/images/index.html
Almost 145,000 images and catalog records of "American Indians, pioneers, railroads,
mining, Denver and Colorado towns, city, farm, and ranch life, recreation, scenery,
news events, and numerous other subjects and states."
Undigitized Photos Guides http://history.denverlibrary.org/images/undigitized/index.html
Florida State Archives
Florida Memory. Florida Photographic Collection http://www.floridamemory.com/PhotographicCollection/
Almost 100,000 records and digital images for photographs are online. The Archives
has more than 850,000 photos.
Collection Index http://www.floridamemory.com/PhotographicCollection/collections_index.cfm
"This guide describes the individual collections that comprise the Florida Photographic Collection as a whole."
George Eastman House: International Museum of Photography and Film
Photography Collections Online http://www.geh.org/
Offers access by photographer or format, with many digital images. Full catalog
is available by telnet, http://www.geh.org/gehdata.html.
Harvard University Library
Visual Information Access (VIA) http://via.lib.harvard.edu/via/deliver/advancedsearch?_collection=via
"VIA contains descriptive records and images representing paintings, sculpture, photography, drawings, prints, architecture, decorative arts, trade cards, rubbings, theater designs, maps and plans. Participating repositories include archives, museums, libraries, and other collections...."
Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Do Research http://www.historydc.org/library/searchcatalog.aspx
Separate search for catalog and finding aids. “Includes descriptions of many special photograph collections and over 12,000 individual photographs in the library's general photograph collection. Other photographs are accessible through hard-copy descriptions.”
Indiana Historical Society
Digital Image Collections http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm4/search.php
“The IHS Collections website includes over 34,000 digital images for research, and more are added every week.”
Kentuckiana Digital Library
"There are currently over 80,000 digital images available from over 100 archival collections." With links from item-level descriptions to finding aids.
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Public Library Images http://photos.lapl.org/
More than 60,000 digitized images. Emphasizes the history of Los Angeles, Southern California, and California.
Library of Congress
PPOC (Prints and Photographs Online Catalog) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/
Includes 600,000 records for more than 7 million pictures, with 1.2 million digital images.
Total collections number close to 14 million items
Photos and Prints in American Memory http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/collections/finder.html
Includes ca. 50 pictorial collections from the Chicago Historical Society,
Duke University, North Dakota State University, and other contributors, as
well as the Library of Congress.
Photographs and Prints in Global Gateway. Meeting of Frontiers http://international.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfdigcol/mfdigcol.html
Includes ca. 20 collections from the Russian State Library and other repositories
Library of Virginia
Prints and Photographs Collections http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/photo/index.htm
Provides links to digitized photographs relating to Virginia history from several
public libraries as well as the state library.
Maryland Historical Society
Photograph Collections http://www.mdhs.org/digital-images
Searches online guides and finding aids, with selected digital images.
Maryland State Archives
Guide to the Photographic Collections http://mdhistpics.net/dsp_search.cfm
Searches collection and series-level descriptions, with selected digital images.
Minnesota Historical Society
Visual Resources Database http://collections.mnhs.org/visualresources/
More than 190,000 records for photos, art, posters, and fine art photos with more than 125,000
digital images. Collections contain 250,000 items.
Nagasaki University Library
Japanese Metadata Database of Old Photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period http://oldphoto.lb.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/unive/
About 6,000 items with digital images, 1860-1899.
National Archives and Records Administration
Archival Research Catalog http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/index.html
Tip from Still Picture Records Section: For still photographs and posters, use the relevant search filter under media type (Photographs and other
Graphic Materials) and location (Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division). Database contains descriptions for more than 3,500 still photo and poster series,
along with item-level descriptions and reference-quality
digital reproductions for more than 40,000 selected photographs and
National Archives of Canada see: Library
and Archives Canada
National Library of Australia
Picture Australia http://www.pictureaustralia.org/
Union catalog with more than one million records
and digital images from 25 archives, libraries,
and museums in Australia. The two largest
contributors are the
state libraries of New South Wales and Victoria.
National Library of Medicine
Images from the History of Medicine http://wwwihm.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/gw_44_3/chameleon?skin=nlm&lng=en
More than 60,000 "portraits, pictures of institutions, caricatures, genre
scenes, and graphic art in a variety of media, illustrating the social and
historical aspects of medicine."
New Jersey Digital Highway
New Jersey Digital Highway http://www.njdigitalhighway.org/
The first collection features immigration in a "'one stop shop'" for New Jersey history and culture, from the collections of NJ libraries, museums, archives and historical societies.
New Orleans Public Library
Louisiana Division Photograph Collection http://nutrias.org/~nopl/photos/photolist.htm
Includes keyword search access to finding aids for photographic collections
and selected digital images.
New York Public Library
NYPL Digital Gallery http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/index.cfm
"Provides access to over 600,000 images ... including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more."
Picture Collection Online http://digital.nypl.org/mmpco/
"More than 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines and newspapers as well as original photographs, prints and postcards, mostly created before 1923." No longer added to.
Northern Arizona University
Colorado Plateau Digital Archives
The catalog has ca. 5,000 digital images. The photo archive finding guide describes
all 700,000 photographs in The Cline Library Special Collections and Archives
Ohio Historical Society
Ohio Pix http://www.ohiohistory.org/etcetera/exhibits/ohiopix/index.cfm
About 5,000 selected digital images of prints and photographs.
Online Archive of California
Use the 'images' search screen to locate "tens of thousands of photographs,
paintings, and other graphic materials. Our experimental "Browse Images" feature organizes these images by topic."
Graphic Arts. Catalogs, Databases, and Finding Aids http://www.princeton.edu/~rbsc/databases/graphicarts.html
“Search 21,500 records describing prints, drawings, photographs, museum objects and other visual materials in the Library's Special Collections. The MASC database also contains records for visual materials in manuscript, archival, and other special collection.”
Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN)
“Scran is a charitable online learning resource base with over 360,000 images and multimedia files from museums, galleries, archives and the media.”
Science and Society Picture Library (England)
“Over a million images from the Science Museum, the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television and the National Railway Museum. With over 50,000 images digitized.”
SIRIS (Smithsonian Institution Research Information System) http://www.siris.si.edu/
Offers "252,000 descriptions of personal papers, manuscripts, photographs, oral histories, sound recordings, films, and organizational records from ten repositories. Over 100,000 scanned images are available in our Image Gallery” http://sirismm.si.edu/siris/sirisimagegallery.htm
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Photographs Search http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/search/ph_catalog.php
“Approximately 17,500 of the 85,000 historical photographs in the Photo Archives are available through this online catalog.” “Approximately 600 of the 15,000 institutional photographs of the Museum.”
U.S. Naval Institute
Photo Archive http://pictopia.com/perl/gal?provider_id=319
Viewing and sales catalog for 15,000 digitized photos from a collection of more than 450,000 images showing U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard; ships and aircraft; and battles.
University of California, Berkeley
Bancroft Library. Digital Image Catalog
More than 30,000 records. "Digital representations of photographs, pictures,
and manuscripts related to California history from the collections of the Bancroft
Library that are a part of the California Heritage Digital Image Access Project."
University of Michigan
Bentley Historical Library. Bentley Image Bank http://www.umich.edu/~bhl/
Almost 5,000 records and images, with links to finding aids with additional
UM Image Source http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/i/image/image-idx
Lists databases with pictorial images from many university departments, including
local history collections, visual arts resources, and zoology.
University of North Carolina
North Carolina Collections Photographic Archives http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/photos.html
"Digital Portfolios and Sample Images includes databases and finding aids with links to digitized images. The Photographic Archives Collection Guides also link to digital images."
University of Pittsburgh
Historic Pittsburgh: Images http://images.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/i/image/image-idx?xc=1&page=index&g=imls
"Provides access to over 10,500 visual images from thirty-eight collections held by the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Chatham College Archives, the Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center, and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation."
University of Texas Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Photography Collections Database http://research.hrc.utexas.edu/photoPublic/
Use the "search" or "browse" feature to access selected descriptions from the
ca. 5 million prints and negatives at the Center. “This database provides access to all of our holdings on a collection-level basis.” Some digital images.
University of Virginia
Small Library Special Collections http://small.library.virginia.edu//a>
Includes more than 20,000 images of art and architecture, as well as more than 5,000 photographs in the Jackson Davis Collection of African-American Educational Photographs.
University of Washington Libraries
Digital Collections http://content.lib.washington.edu/
“Collections are primarily pictorial, although some have accompanying essays and text.”
Utah State Historical Society
Digital Library Collections http://history.utah.gov/research_and_collections/photos/index.html
Lists databases with more than 65,000 digitized photographs.
Washington State University. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Digital Collections http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/holland/masc/imagedatabases.htm
Historical Photographs http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/holland/masc/mascphoto.htm
Includes guides to individual collections as well as an online catalog to search
for images of digitized photographs.
Wellcome Images http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/
Catalog of historical and contemporary images in many media related to the history of medicine, health, and human culture worldwide.
Wisconsin Historical Society
Web-wide "image" search engines
Wisconsin Historical Images http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/index.asp
Catalog with nearly 35,000images from the ca. 2 million pictures in the
Visual Materials Collections, with new images added daily.
Alta Vista. Image Search feature
Google. Image search http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=wi&ie=UTF-8
Yahoo. Images http://www.yahoo.com/
Stock photo agency directories
Picture Archive Council of America, Membership Directory, http://www.pacaoffice.org/ic/paca/devpages/mem_dir_redesign.html
Prepared by: Helena Zinkham, Technical Services
Section, July 2003. Last updated: Feb. 2012.