The New York Public Library has expanded access to more than 180,000 items with no known U.S. copyright restrictions in its Digital Collections database. The release of these images delights New Yorkers, photographers, historians, collectors and lovers of vintage photographs of all generations around the world.
“The New York Public Library is committed to giving our users access to information and resources however possible,” said Tony Marx, president of the Library, in a press release dated Jan. 6, 2016. “Today, we are going beyond providing our users with digital facsimiles that give only an impression of something we have in our physical collection. By making our highest-quality assets freely available, we are truly giving our users the greatest access possible to our collections in the digital environment.”
Online users of the NYPL Digital Collections website will find more prominent download links and filters highlighting restriction-free content. More technically inclined users will also benefit from updates to the Library’s collections API enabling bulk use and analysis, as well as data exports and utilities posted to NYPL’s GitHub account.
The release of the hi-resolution images removes usage fees and simplifies the process for accessing and using vintage photographs for scholars, artists, educators, technologists, publishers, writers and people of all ages everywhere. From teens to senior citizens, there’s something for everyone.
Compare vintage New York City with current images of the Big Apple at New York City Fifth Avenue then-and-now comparison. This collection allows users to compare wide angle photographs taken in 1911 with current Google Street View images.
The public domain release includes images and data from the Library’s rich New York City collection, historic maps, botanical illustrations, unique manuscripts, photographs, ancient religious texts, and more. Materials include:
Berenice Abbott’s iconic documentation of 1930s New York for the Federal Art Project
Farm Security Administration photographs by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, and others
German masters prints from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach collection, including many religious prints
Manuscripts of American literary masters like Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Papers and correspondence of founding American political figures like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison
Sheet music for popular American songs at the turn of the 20th century
WPA-era lithographs, etchings, and pastels by African American artists
Lewis Hine’s photographs of Ellis Island immigrants and social conditions in early 20th century America
Anna Atkins’ cyanotypes of British algae, the first recorded photographic work by a woman (1843)
Handscrolls of the Tale of Genji, created in 1554
Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts from Western Europe
Over 20,000 maps and atlases documenting New York City, North America, and the world
More than 40,000 stereoscopic views documenting all regions of the United States
Collectors will enjoy the postcard collection, turn of the century poster collection, theatrical photography collections, and vintage posters from New York and beyond. In all, there are over 672,000 digital images in the New York Public Library collections to view, download and use as you wish. The biggest problem you face may be finding the time to go through all of the images as you enjoy a walk down memory lane.