Michigan State University

Finding and Using Free Image Collections on the Web

This guide identifies sources of free images on the web.


The image collections described on this page are provided for educational use only.

Digital Vaults: The National Archives Experience

National Archives Digital Vault website



The National Archives and Records Administration offers 1200 images and documents representing important moments in American history. The Digital Vaults site is marvelous to explore, but systematic searching is less functional.


The Digital Vaults system does not allow users to download images.

You may save images to a collection, and use one or more images to create a poster or movie using tools within the Digital Vaults. You can save the poster or movie by creating a free account and send the link to yourself via email. You can then show the poster or movie during a class presentation, or link to it from a website.

Attribution & Citation

Full details about each document are given. Click on the magnifying glass icon at the lower right corner of each thumbnail.  

Morgan Library & Museum: Master Drawings

Watteau sketch of two girls from Morgan Library



The Morgan Library & Museum has digitized 10,000 images from its collection of master drawings, including about 2000 verso pages showing rarely-seen sketches and inscriptions.


The September 2013 announcement of the digitization project indicated that the collection is available for noncommercial uses "such as classroom presentations, dissertations, and educational websites devoted to the fine arts."


When you view an individual work, the information about the image will give the title, artist, and date, as well as a permanent URL.

Above: Antoine Watteau, Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl. Morgan Library & Museum.

Smithsonian Institution: Scientific Images

Image of integrated circuits from 1960sBatteries: photo from 1959



Historic photos from 20th century scientific publications. Coverage is limited to technology and engineering topics, especially electrical engineering.


The images on this website are still protected by copyright but are available for academic and non-commercial pursuits.


Each individual photo is identified with the name of the journal it was originally published in, and the date. "Unless otherwise noted, all text and images are protected by copyright © 1998-2013 Smithsonian Institution."

Above, from left: "Masks Automatically" from the journal Integrated Circuits, year unknown; "Flexibility of Nickel-Cadmium Battery" from the journal Batteries, August 26, 1959.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Men gathering papyrus at tomb of Puyemre, reproduction by Hugh Hopgood



A collection of fine art spanning 10,000 years of human culture. 403,000 objects are described online. Roughly 250,000 have images.


Educational use is permitted for all images in the Met's online collection. Student papers and classroom presentations are considered educational use.

Reproduction in scholarly and academic publications is permitted only for those items without copyright restrictions. These items have an "Open Access for Scholarly Content" icon: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access for Scholarly Content icon


If you need an image for a scholarly or academic publication, you must check each item in your search results to see if the icon appears under the image.


"All the information necessary for proper citation of an OASC image is available on the Collection page for that object. Please use the following credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, followed by the specific information identified as the "Credit Line" on the Collection page for each work of art. The citation must also include the URL www.metmuseum.org. You may not suggest or imply the Museum's endorsement of your publication or project, nor use the Museum's trademarks without permission. Consult the Terms and Conditions page for additional information." From the Met's Frequently Asked Questions: Open Access for Scholarly Content.

Above: Men Gathering Papyrus, Tomb of Puyemre. Reproduction by Hugh R. Hopgood, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org.

Smithsonian Institution Images

German V-2 missile circa 1945Portrait of African American woman holding a parasol circa 1870-1880



530,000 selected images from the Smithsonian's collection of millions of items. Photographs, postcards, postage stamps, paintings, sculpture, crafts and folk art, jewelry, aircraft, and scientific specimens.


Images are copyrighted by the Smithsonian Institution or individual copyright owners. Educational and non-commercial use are permitted. See the Smithsonian copyright page.


The full record for each item is available, but since the images come from different museums, the display format varies from one collection to another. If the description of an item seems incomplete, look for an Expand, Details, or Full Record link.

Above, from left: Eagle Dancer painting, Smithsonian National Anthropological Archive/Natural History Museum; V-2 (A-4) Missile, Germany, WWII, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum; Portrait of African American Woman Holding a Parasol, circa 1870-80, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.


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