Communities

New York Public Library Releases 180,000 Hi-Res Archival Images

by Bo Suh

January 8, 2016
Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

In an unprecedented move, the New York Public Library has just released over 180,000 high-resolution images to the public domain. That’s right—they are free to use and download without any restriction.

All the images are available through the library’s Digital Collections site, where users can search through a database of more than 670,000 items. The effort was spearheaded by NYPL Labs, the library’s tech and outreach division, to make the materials more accessible to the public. Many of the images included in the collection were available before, but behind a paywall and in lower resolution, according to NPR. Now, thousands of maps, letters, photos, scripts, posters, and drawings are available to the public at the click of a button.

“These changes are intended to facilitate sharing, research, and reuse by scholars, artists, educators, technologists, publishers, and internet users of all kinds,” the library wrote in a statement.

Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

If you’re having trouble grasping the scope of the 180,000 files, NYPL also released a neat visualization that users can scroll through, affording a sense of just how large this collection is. Users can even narrow their search by century, genre, and color.

But rather than stopping there, the library also encourages users to interact with the collection through the Remix Residency program, which will provide funding to two innovative individuals, selected through a submission process, to make “transformative and creative uses of digital collections and data.”

Some example projects that NYPL Labs have already developed to engage users include Mansion Maniac, a game that explores floor plans of 19th-century New York apartments; a then-and-now comparison game that juxtaposes New York’s Fifth Avenue from 1911 to a present-day Google street view; and The Green Book, which lists destinations that would welcome black travelers in the 20th century. Now, get to exploring!

Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

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New York Public Library Releases 180,000 Hi-Res Archival Images