Smithsonian Image Archive Available

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Finding the right image to use on a new article you’re posting on your website, or for capturing attention for posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, is vital to encourage engagement. Making sure you have the legal right to use that image is even more critical.

Smithsonian Open Access Image Archive

Way back in 2012, I wrote a TechTips article on How to Find Legal Pictures and Images. While the websites mentioned in the article are likely out of date, it is essential that you make sure you have legal rights to use an image.

There are a growing number of royalty-free websites you can use to find images. One of the latest to come online is the Smithsonian Institution’s Open Access.

The Smithsonian Image Archive

On the Smithsonian Open Access website, you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking. The Open Access platform provides the tools you need to have easier access to nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from their collections. They are continually adding new images. Images and data are searchable from across the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

Open access is an example of the move to digitize physical assets to make the Smithsonian’s vast collections more easily available to everyone. Items you find and download using the Open Access platform include what’s called a CC0 designation. This means the Smithsonian dedicates the digital asset to the public domain. This means the asset is free of copyright restrictions, and you can use it for any purpose, free of charge, without further permission from the Smithsonian.

What is Creative Commons Zero (CC0)?

CC0 is a designation used by cultural organizations to waive copyright rights that it may have for a digital asset. The Smithsonian is using CC0 to tell people that they do not need the Smithsonian’s permission to use the digital asset in any way. CC0 only applies to copyright, so you may still need someone else’s permission to use a CC0-designated digital asset. For more information, see the Smithsonian Terms of Use.

The Smithsonian Open Access platform allows for several search parameters, including a typical keyword search and filters by museum, topic, date, and resource type. This platform could be especially useful if you are looking for a historical image.

I did have a fun time poking around the site to see what I might want to use in the future.

What have you found to be good sites to use for royalty-free images?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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