New York Public Library Boosts Public Domain with Release of 187k+ Historical Images

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Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library
This recently digitized image from the NYPL archives depicts the front façade of the New York Public Library in a photo taken on December 26, 1907.

The New York Public Library is an internationally renowned institution serving the equal exchange of human knowledge. The fourth largest public library in the world, with 53 million holdings, it serves over 18 million people annually. However, the landscape of knowledge exchange has rapidly shifted from print to digital since the internet started becoming widespread, and many visitors now flock to library websites instead to access their compendiums of information.

As of January 5, 2016, the New York Public Library took their duty of service to the public one step further and released over 187,000 digitized out-of-copyright items into the public domain. No permissions are required to re-use the materials, and there are no restrictions on their use for any member of the public.

While access to other items in their digital archive has administration fees and more complex processes for accessibility, the newly released materials are free and accessed through a visual browsing tool. This tool is, in and of itself, a powerful aspect of the release—patrons can browse through the images by genre, century, collection, or even color. The visualized display is a beautiful rendition that allows online users to get a quick overview of hundreds of thumbnails at once—instantly granting access to a diverse array of incredible rare and historical images.

From detailed pages of 11th century books showing the ascension of Muhammed to heaven with a host of angels, to images of the interior of Masonic Lodges in Philadelphia in the 19th century, this newly released collection is a veritable treasure trove of interest. The New York Public Library has once again shown their interest in continuing the exchange of knowledge for the betterment of humanity, allowing anyone across the world to instantly access and use hundreds of thousands of incredible snapshots of human history with just an internet connection.

The New York Public Library’s newly released digitized images are available at: www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain