Get Downloading – 20 great GLAM websites for free high resolution images

People often ask me where they can find images of collection items that they can reuse for free. There is no single website hosting all of the reusable images available so I thought I’d list my favourite galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) that make at least some images of their collections freely available for reuse. If you’ve got a spare 5 minutes go and have an explore.

Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, 1650 - 1683 by Jan Davidsz. de Heem. Oil on copper. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest). Rijksmuseum

Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, 1650 – 1683 by Jan Davidsz. de Heem. Oil on copper. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest). Public domain. Rijksmuseum (SK-C-214)

Te Papa, 50,000+ images

Top of my list is, of course, Te Papa. I’m biased I know. About eighteen months ago we launched open access images in Collections Online. Users can download and reuse certain images of collection items, rights permitting. There are now over 50,000 images of Te Papa collection items are available for you to download and reuse. 33,800 with No Known Copyright Restrictions for any use whatsoever including commercial use and 24,600 usable under the terms of the Creative Commons copyright licence Attribution – Non-commercial – No derivative works (CC BY-NC-ND). The image resolution is variable but we provide the highest resolution we have available. You can find them by checking the “with downloadable images” checkbox and entering a search term in Collections Online.

Rijksmuseum, Netherlands, 200,000+ images

The Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands has a really nice website and a beautiful collection. My favourites are the floral still lifes and the Japanese prints. In order to get downloading you just need to sign up to the Rijksstudio. Signing up allows you to collect groups of items and also to zoom in, crop and save details of artworks. Best of all you get access to downloadable high resolution images. If you’re publicly distributing copies it’s best practice to credit the Rijksmuseum as the source of the images but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

New York Public Library, USA, 180,000+ images

The NYPL launched this service just weeks ago. When you type into the search box a check box becomes available to filter results to show only public domain material. It’s the public domain material that is available for any use. Just like the Rijksmuseum, the New York Public Library doesn’t require a credit as the image source.

The Getty, USA, 100,000+ images

This link to the Getty collection allows you to search on only those images that are available for download and open reuse for any purpose. Like most of institutions the Getty has some items that remain in copyright and so aren’t available for you to download and reuse but using this link avoids the images with restrictions. The Getty gives image caption information for you to use when publishing the image and also asks that you use the credit “Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.”

Yale Centre for British Art, Yale University, USA, 69,000+ images

The majority of this collection is in the public domain. The rights status and the download button is on the object page so you need to click into the object record webpage to get access. If the work is one of the few in this collection that remains in copyright, the download functionality won’t be there. This organisation released another 22,000 images on the first of January so enjoy looking through the new images.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 45,000+ images

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875 by Claude Monet . Oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875 by Claude Monet, oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Public domain. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington (1983.1.29)

The National Gallery of Art, Washington have created a separate website for their open reuse images so you don’t need to filter your search results. The maximum size of the images is 4000 pixels at the longest edge. This is a generous image size. It won’t print on the side of a bus but it will give you a good poster before the image starts to pixelate.They ask that you credit the image you use as “Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington”. If you look at their list of most popular downloads you’ll see some familiar artworks by Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA, 20,000+ images

The LACMA have public domain images available for high resolution download and reuse without restriction. Protected content – the content where rights still exist – is not available to download. They let you know when you select an image whether it’s public domain or protected. Unfortunately you can’t filter on the rights statement so you need to be prepared to select another image if your favourite turns out to be protected content.

The Walters Art Museum, USA, 20,000+ images

Where possible the Walters Art Museum have licensed images using a Creative Commons Zero : No Rights Reserved (CC0) copyright licence. This licence waives all rights in the image. Unfortunately the collections online website doesn’t allow users to filter by rights so you’ll need to click into each of the object pages to find out whether the image is available for download. If you’re not sure what to search for check out their wikipedia page. It’s got a great overview of their collection.

National Library of New Zealand, 3611 images

Arayori (A Peasant Woman), ca. 1915 by Yoshida Homei. wood with applied color. CC0. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum

Arayori (A Peasant Woman), ca. 1915 by Yoshida Homei, wood with applied color. CC0. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum (25.2)

The National Library has an open reuse policy and is working towards clearing images from its collections for open reuse. While it’s not the biggest number of images in this list, keep an eye on this collection as I expect it to grow over time. Probably the easiest way to download the images that are cleared for reuse is via the National Library NZ Flickr Commons account. Library staff have worked on making images available on that platform as well as their own website.

British Library, 1 million+ images

The British Library has uploaded to Flickr over 1 million images with no known copyright restrictions. These images have been scanned from public domain books so vary in quality and image resolution. These are great if you’re using them for online use but some might be a bit small if you were thinking of printing them out. It’s always worth having a look though as there are so many that you’re bound to find something useful.

Internet Archive, 5.3 million+ images

The Internet Archive also holds scans of public domain books including scans of book plates and illustrations. They have also uploaded the images of these artworks to Flickr for open reuse. Again the resolution size might not be quite what you need if you’re printing them out but the images are fine for online use.

Library of Congress, USA, ? images

The Library of Congress have high resolution tiff files available for download of large portions of its collection. They do not provide copyright advice and instead it’s the user who is responsible for ensuring that the copyright is cleared. On the plus side they do give information on how to work out copyright duration.

Creative Commons Licenses

If you’re looking for high quality, high impact reusable images it’s worth putting some time in to learn about Creative Commons licenses. These are copyright licenses that are added to works by the copyright holder. If the copyright owner picks one of these licenses they grant you permission in advance for certain uses as long as you respect the terms of the licence. If you can’t meet the terms of the licence then you will need to go back to the copyright holder for permission. This video explains more:


If you do use an image that has a Creative Commons licence you will need to credit the copyright holder and also ensure that the Creative Commons licence information  travels with the work. This information is usually included in the image caption. Here’s a good crediting guide that can help you caption. Using Creative Commons licences is becoming more popular and not only by galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. Recently the Creative Commons organisation did a count and conservatively estimated that Creative Commons licenses had been used by copyright holders on over a billion creative works.

Institutions using one or more of the six Creative Commons licences include Te Papa and:

State Library of Queensland, Australia 60,000+ images

The State Library of Queensland provides high resolution files for all of the out of copyright and Creative Commons copyright licensed digitised photographs, maps, sheet music and posters in their collection to download and reuse for free. It’s a bit clunky as, once you’ve filtered down and browsed to find the image you want, you have to find the online image record and the download button. They’ve got some great images though so it’s worth persevering to figure out their system.

Auckland Museum, ? images

Parrot's leg ring, kaka poria, made of nephrite. Oc1878,1101.616, AN72598001 © Trustees of the British Museum licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license

Parrot’s leg ring (kaka poria), by unknown maker, nephrite. © Trustees of the British Museum licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license (Oc1878, 1101.616)

Auckland Museum uses the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) or the No Known Copyright Restrictions statement. Those items marked up with No Known Copyright Restrictions can be reused for any purpose including commercially. Those with CC BY can also be reused for any purpose as long as the Auckland Museum is credited as the copyright holder and the Creative Commons license travels with the work. An advanced search allows you to filter on rights.

Museum Victoria, Australia, 85,000+ images

This Australian institution also uses the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) or No Known Copyright Restrictions statement. Once a search is completed you can refine the search results by filtering the rights statement.

Brooklyn Museum, USA, ? images

This institution also uses CC BY licence or No Known Copyright Restrictions statement. The advanced search provides a rights filter. Brooklyn Museum was one of the first museums in the world to start to use creative commons licenses on their images of collection items.

British Museum, UK, ? images

The British Museum uses the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial ShareAlike licence (CC BY-NC-SA) on images of some of its collection items. Of particular interest to New Zealanders is the British Museum’s large collection of Maori taonga. The British Museum have invested a lot of time in photographing these taonga. You have to register to be supplied the high resolution images but it’s free if you want to use the images non-commercially. If you want to use images commercially or without attribution you can apply to the British Museum’s image service and fees are likely to apply.

Non-Commercial use only

There are institutions that do not use Creative Commons licensing but make images available for non-commercial reuse. Check out the terms and conditions to see whether your use fits the requirements.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA, 400,000+ images

The Met allows reuse of images of its collection where they’ve tagged the image with an OASC tag. To find out more about what you can use the images for check out their frequently asked questions page.

Dallas Museum of Art, USA, 23,000+ images

The Dallas Museum of Art also allows reuse of images of it’s collection but this is limited to non-commercial personal or educational use, including “fair use” as defined by U.S. copyright laws. Where the work is out of copyright or where the copyright owner is the Dallas Museum of Art, a download icon appears below the image of the collection item.


Major General Andrew Hamilton Russell. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/1-002064-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Major General Andrew Hamilton Russell. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/1-002064-G. No known copyright restrictions. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

You’re probably thinking, “Why can’t I go to one place to search for all the public domain material?”. Unfortunately no one’s invented this space yet. The closest thing available is the aggregator platform – sites that combine content from a large number of GLAM content providers.

Here in New Zealand we have Digital NZ – this site lists over 25 million digital items. You can filter by rights and get results that show only those items that are able to be used commercially or those that can be remixed, mashed up, and altered. You’ll need to check the licensing to see whether you have to credit the work and any other terms of the license. You do this by clicking on the image you’re interested in and going to the source of the image.

Others are:

  • Trove, Australia. This site doesn’t filter on rights. The Trove team have recently built an app to help users identify works that are freely available for reuse.
  • Europeana. Europe’s digital library does have a rights filter but it’s not always clear how good the image quality is. The development team have recently added an image quality filter so you can select and search for images that match the resolution you need.
  • DPLA The Digital Public Library of America doesn’t have a rights filter. It does have rights information against the individual item.
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library This is a specialty natural environment aggregator. This project focusses on providing access to scans of scientific books and articles on biodiversity. Like the British Library and the Internet Archive they also provide access to scans of book plates and illustrations via Flickr – over 100,000 images.  These images are made available with a variety of copyright statements as it depends on what statement was chosen by the contributing organisation. The majority are available for open reuse.

These are just some of the collections that have high resolution images available for free reuse. The Open GLAM website lists a few more. I hope you take some time to explore these collections and download some images for fun or for work.

4 Responses

  1. Robin

    Don’t forget the Indianapolis Museum of Art! Our recently redesigned collection page makes finding objects with images a snap. Public domain images can be downloaded directly from the website.

  2. David

    At Europeana we’ve recently made it possible to filter on the resolution of images. Just click the image facet and then choose your preferred resolution.

    Can be combined with all other facets and keyword searches. Here are all image with above 4MP+ resolution to start you off:


    • Victoria Leachman

      That’s fantastic news David! Thanks so much for commenting. I’ll definitely be using that filter. Awesome work by your development team – please pass on my congratulations.

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