The Smithsonian Has Released Over 4M Free Images From Its Collections Online
By Mikelle Leow, 27 Jan 2023
When you think of the public domain, dusty photos nobody would want to hold on to might spring to mind. The Smithsonian begs to differ. Home to a collective of museums and educational and research institutions, it published 2.8 million digitized images of national treasures in 2020 for all to use at no cost. Today, the free-to-use collection has expanded to over 4.4 assets.
Everything in the Smithsonian Open Access bank—including both 2D and 3D digital items—comes under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0), also known as public domain, license. The selection combines the vast repositories of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, the National Zoo, nine research centers, libraries, and archives. So whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a game designer, or an artist searching for inspiration from the past, there’ll be something for you.
Under the CC0 license, users are free to download, reuse, remix, and distribute images for personal and commercial use, no strings attached. There is no need to provide credit, either. However, the Smithsonian does disclaim that it cannot guarantee all content marked as CC0 isn’t tethered to other rights, “such as rights of publicity or privacy,” or if an image’s usage will be affected by the laws in your country.
The Smithsonian isn’t stopping at 4.4 million images—“many more” are to come, it teases. “What will you create?”
Owney the dog, the mascot for mail clerks in Washington, DC. Image from the National Postal Museum via Smithsonian Open Access
A portrait of Frida Kahlo by Magda Pach. Image from the National Portrait Gallery via Smithsonian Open Access
Creeping Baby Doll Patent Model invented by George P. Clarke. Image from the National Museum of American History via Smithsonian Open Access
Evibacus princeps, stained with fast green. Image from the National Museum of Natural History via Smithsonian Open Access
3D model of Mammuthus primigenius (Blumbach). Image from the Office of the Chief Information Officer via Smithsonian Open Access
Lockheed Vega 5B flown by Amelia Earhart. Image from the National Air and Space Museum via Smithsonian Open Access
Portrait of Frederick Douglass by an unidentified artist. Image from the National Portrait Gallery via Smithsonian Open Access
Cat in Eakins’s Yard, taken by Thomas Eakins. Image from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden via Smithsonian Open Access
Cathedral Window Quilt by Viola Canady. Image from the Anacostia Community Museum via Smithsonian Open Access
Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer. Image from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery via Smithsonian Open Access
In the Sunlight by Childe Hassam. Image from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden via Smithsonian Open Access
Boxing headgear worn by Muhammad Ali. Image from the National Museum of African American History and Culture via Smithsonian Open Access
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