January 14, 2016

NYPL releases 180,000 high-resolution photos into the public domain


NYPL exteriorThe New York Public Library has just released high-resolution versions of its massive collection of public domain images, all completely free of charge. Under the aegis of the library’s Public Domain project, the catalog collects photographs, paintings, documents, engravings, and maps going back to the 11th century.

As Camila Domonoske reports at NPR:

It’s the latest push by NYPL Labs, the library’s Internet-oriented tech and outreach team, to make the library’s holdings more accessible to the public.

Before the release, many of the items were available to view for free through the library’s Digital Collections site, and some could be downloaded at lower resolutions. But in most cases, for a high-resolution image, users would have to make a request and pay a processing fee, a library spokeswoman says.

The library has also released a somewhat breathtaking aggregator allowing you peruse the images chronologically. The library’s Public Domain project is completely open-source (the source code available on the NYPL’s GitHub account for all you nerds out there).

But wait, there’s more! NYPL is encouraging the public to take all these images and  raw data, and to…make stuff with it! Three projects have already been released. Domonoske reports:

NYPL Labs’ designers came up with a few projects to get you started—a game based on public-domain mansion floor plans, a comparison of 1911 street photos with 2015 Google Street View images and a trip planner based on a guide to where black visitors would be welcomed in the 1930s-1960s.

And on that note, I’m going to go play Mansion Mania for the rest of the day. And, when I finally get bored roaming the halls of historic New York mansions, I’ll head over to NYPL Labs Stereogranimator and give myself a seizure.



Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.