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Images: a guide to finding visual resources: Open
Web

Quick overview of searching for images in the databases Cornell University Library has built or licenses, as well as collections on the open web.

Image Search Engines

Google Images is a quick and easy way to find lots of images from web pages across the globe. But it only searches web content that it can find -- many images are actually hidden in databases or archives (whether freely available or in Cornell's subscription databases). The quality of images - size, resolution, description, usage rights - also varies considerably on the open web. Use Google, but don't rely on it for all image searches. Explore this page and Cornell's image databases for more high-quality options.

Flickr - a large database of images

Flickr is a public photo-sharing site with billions of images. It is a rich resource to find images for your research (news events, places, people, etc.). Flickr users can opt to share their images with others under creative commons licenses (alternative to copyright).

Freely Usable Images - Resources

Be sure to follow license conditions and terms of use.

Digital Collections

The following digital collections provide access to a variety of images in the public domain and under copyright. Please check the terms of use and image rights statements for more information.

This is a selected list. For a more extensive list, see Digital Images Collection Guide by subject. To check if Cornell subscribes to a resource, use the Classic Catalog.

Directories & Catalogs

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons Trademark

Creative Commons helps creators share their work. With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit -- and only on specificed conditions (e.g. non-commercial, non-derivative, share-alike). 

U.S. Government Images

Tip! Images produced by the federal government are in the public domain. You can use them without seeking permission. To be certain, check image rights statements.

Search Google Images and limit to .gov

  • Search example:

dorothea lange site:.gov

White Angel Breadline

"White Angel Breadline" by Dorothea Lange. Source: The National Archives (archives.gov)

  • Search example:

 mars site:.gov

Victoria Crater at Meridiani Planum. NASA/JPL/UA.

Other NASA images

NYPL Digital Gallery

Library, Cornell University, I... Digital ID: 74626. New York Public Library

Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y., ca. 1910.
Source: New York Public Library

Cartoons

Gillray cartoon

Gillray. "Maniac's Ravings, or Little Boney in a Strong Fit," 1803.

Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Cartoon Collection.

Find images