How Do I Find Historical Images?

image of FDR as ship's captain


Historical images are uniquely interesting and can provide new understanding of past events. Technology enables us to access many of these images via the web but the sources may not be particularly easy to identify and find. This page attempts to organize some links to online image collections, etc. to help you in your quest for visual information.

Web Resources

The Library of Congress American Memory Project- comprehensive site includes more than 100 collections.

Ad*Access - Images and descriptive information for thousand of U.S. and Canadian advertisements printed between 1911 and 1955.

Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record - a collection of images designed to support study and research of slave life.

Corbis - commercial site for photographs and fine art images

George Eastman House - International Museum of Photography and Film - A steadily growing digital image sampler and browsing resource for the vast photography holdings of George Eastman House.

National Archives and Records Administration - expansive site with electronic access to many of the holdings of our nation's archive.

See an overview of the collections
Search for online images using the Archival Research Catalog

National Museum of American History (Smithsonian) - dedicated to inspiring a broader understanding of our nation and its many peoples.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery - extensive and significant collections.

Multi-Institutional Image Databases and Projects

Clearinghouse of Image Databases - The Clearinghouse was developed to share information about projects undertaken by members of the IMAGELIB electronic discussion list (

Digital Library Federation: Public Access Collections - developed by members of DLF, a consortium of libraries and related agencies.

Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web - a database on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries Web site with links to online exhibitions that have been created by libraries, archives, historical societies, and museums.

OIAster - a union catalog of digital resources. Provides access to digital resources by "harvesting" their descriptive metadata (records) using OAI-PMH (the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting).

Online Archive of California - historical materials from California and other regions.

ND Libraries Subscription Resources

AP Images - photo archives from the Associated Press and other sources.

American Decades Primary Sources - Cross-disciplinary source spanning the 20th century. Separate link to List of Illustrations.

Troubled images: images from the Northern Ireland political collection - the Political Collection documents the activities of all parties to the conflict.


Much of the information provided here was first outlined by Eric Novotny, Humanities Librarian for History, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, in his article "Finding United States Historical Images in Print and Online", published in Reference and User Services Quarterly, Volume 45 Number 1, Fall 2005. We are grateful to Eric for permitting us to use his content.