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Free NY Public Library Digital Image Gallery Opens Today

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275,000 images, from Civil War photographs, illuminated manuscripts, and Japanese prints, to New York City views, early American maps, and much more are now available free online.

A treasury of images from the collections of The New York Public Library is accessible free of charge over the Internet starting today via NYPL Digital Gallery, according to Dr. Paul LeClerc, President of the Library.

“By opening the doors of our acclaimed collections to users over the Internet, we are plunging fully into an exciting new era of Library service,” said Dr. LeClerc. “These visual materials, many of which are unique to the Library, will be available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection at any time, free of charge. We see new possibilities for exciting intellectual discoveries and accomplishments by scholars, researchers, and artists from remote locations who will be able to easily use our materials.”

The initial 275,000 items in the NYPL Digital Gallery were selected by curators from all divisions of The New York Public Library’s four research libraries. Included in the searchable database are prints, illuminated manuscripts, photographs, maps, postcards, cigarette cards, menus, posters, and many other visual materials.

“Whether it’s a historian studying the Revolutionary War, a scenic designer researching old New York neighborhoods, or a fashion designer looking for inspiration in vintage clothing, the Digital Gallery will provide unparalleled resources and access,” said David S. Ferriero, the Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Director and Chief Executive of The Research Libraries. “Within the next several months, we expect that the quantity of materials available will double to 500,000 items.”

“Digital Gallery provides researchers with several avenues into this huge amount of content — browsing by broad topics, collections, subject words, or names, and searching by keywords or identification number,” said Barbara Taranto, Director of NYPL’s Digital Library Program.

Each item in the Gallery has been individually described with extensive metadata to accommodate precise searches. Once materials have been located, they can be viewed in three sizes and may be downloaded free of charge for personal use.

Representative collections in NYPL Digital Gallery include:

Revolutionary War Scenes — several thousand images from the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection of Illustrations Relating to the American Revolution

Civil War Photos — 183 rarely seen photos documenting battlefield medical treatment

New York City History — tens of thousands of archival photographs of buildings and streetscapes

Illuminated Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts — more than 2,000 manuscript pages and associated illuminations

16th-century Maps of North America — including the earliest published maps of the continent

Sheet Music Covers — from the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Civil and Mechanical Engineering — images from the 16th to the 20th century

Manhattan Pre-War Apartments — 1,260 floor plans and elevations

Yiddish Theatre Placards — from New York and Buenos Aires, 1900s to 1930s

Animal Illustrations — 5,000 pages from illustrated classics published in the 17th to 20th century

Japanese Prints — 17th- and 18th-century woodcuts

Fashion Illustrations — from the 19th to early 20th century

Menus — several thousand restaurant menus from 1851 to the 1920s

Russian Civil War Posters — 213 posters, placards, and broadsides from 1918 to 1922

Theatre Photographs — 1,500 photos from 1900 to 1957 including pictures of Fred Astaire and the Marx Brothers.

This is pretty spectacular stuff, although you may want to wait to visit: there is so much demand right now that everything is pretty clogged up.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://homepage.mac.com/donfrancisco864/iblog/index.html francisco68

    I will bookmark it now. A great find. Still, it brings up the brave new (free) world of images and audio files whipping through cyberspace with and without © by and with and without royalties to creators. It is already an old question but far from settled. The NY Public Library makes things public and private things are file shared or screenshot or downloaded. Privacy and intellectual property issues are in the midst of an amazing revolution. Perhaps they need some shaking up. I take screenshots for my Mac’s wallpaper and I am, therefore, a pirate. Or not.
    Thanks for the resource. I no longer get to visit great libraries in English — or even non-great libraries in person. But here is another collection for my iBook.

  • Eric Olsen

    everything you say is very true F68 – this is a time of great transition and we don’t really know what things will look like when we reach equillibrium again

  • Kimberly Everett

    I am excited to have such a rich resource at my fingertips. I can’t wait to take time to explore it!

  • Eric Olsen

    glad you are excited Kimberly, let us know what you think of it after you’ve had a chance to check it out

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