I have taken the time to go through many many sites and evaluate them to create a list of creditable Public Domain sites for my fellow instructional designers as we are always looking for images. This post completes a previous post of “Best Free Royalty free Photos and Illustrations for commercial and personal uses -images from commercial companies.” Note: Some Government sites will not allow links to their sites. I have pasted the URL beside the source. If the link does not direct you to the page, copy and paste the URL into your address bar and go to the page directly. Generally works published after 1978 and before Jan 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the US.
Please check with the copyright laws of the US Copyright Office http://www.copyright.gov/ concerning public domain definition and laws because recently it was upheld that the courts can assign public domain materials back to the owner or the owners estate especially if the materials in question originate in a foreign country. However, these sites are US government sites that state the materials are in the public domain and free for usage without permission as of this listing. Some of the sties ask for a credit line and give examples of how to credit them. The listed FYI (For your Information) sites are different – read each description for each of these sites. I listed them because of their value. Please see older post of “Best Free Royalty Free Photos and Illustrations for commercial and personal uses – images are made available by private companies.
2. National Park Services http://www.nps.gov/hfc/cfm/npsphoto.cfm The National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection is comprised of more than two million images which cover a wide variety of subjects: Park architecture, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Native American heritage, NPS personnel, roads and transportation, scenic views, and much more. There are presently 1975 images from the Collection available online.
3. USGU- US Geological Service http://nationalmap.gov/historical/index.html The USGS began the release of a new generation of topographic maps (US Topo) in electronic form in 2009. They are and now releasing high-resolution scans of more than 200,000 historical topographic maps of the United States. The topographic map remains an indispensable tool for everyday use in government, science, industry, land management planning, and leisure.
4. US Government Photos and Images http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml – This is a directory of most government agencies and their photo galleries.–great listing of other resources including states. Updated Jan 1, 2014
5. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library http://digitalUS Fish and Wildlife Services media.fws.gov/ is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video that are in the public domain. You are free to use them as you wish – no permission is necessary. We do ask that you please give credit to the photographer or creator and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a format similar to the example: Credit: John Doe/USFWS. Items are added on a regular basis to the library, so if you don’t see something you are looking for today, it may have been added the next time you visit. Most items in the National Digital Library are compressed RGB, JPEG, or PDF files. Most records have low resolution JPEGs that are suitable for web use. I love this site. Great for illustrators reference photos.
6. USDA United State Dept. of Agriculture http://photogallery.nrcs.usda.gov/res/sites/photogallery/ The NRCS Photo Gallery contains natural resource and conservation related photos from across the USA. The Gallery is a joint project between NRCS Conservation Communications and the NRCS Information Technology Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Photos in the Gallery are available free of charge in two common image formats: TIFF or JPEG. Image resolution is generally 1500 x 2100 pixels (5″ x 7″ at 300 dpi). TIFF images are 32 bit CMYK color, ranging from 6 mb to 12 mb in size. JPEG images are 24 bit RGB color ranging from 200 kb to 400 kb in size. If you use any of these photos in a publication, on a web site, or as part of any other project, please use one of the following credit lines: Photo by (photographer’s name), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS. These photos may not be used to infer or imply NRCS endorsement of any product, company, or position. Please do not distort or alter the images the photos portray.
7. The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Visuals Online http://visualsonline.cancer.gov/ -provides a range of photographs and illustrations that may help communicators of medical and public health convey meaning, describe concepts, and tell stories. The collection spans everything from biomedical, science, and patient-care related illustrations and images to portraits of present and past directors and the staff of the National Cancer Institute. Visuals Online currently provides public access to 2,698 images. Great resource for electron microscopy and histological images. Includes general biomedical and science-related images, cancer-specific scientific and patient care-related images, and portraits of directors and staff of the National Cancer Institute. Each image or illustration included in the NCI Visuals Online Web site is labeled either “Public Domain” (free to use) or “Copyright Protected” (restricted, obtain permission before use).
Most of the images available in this library are in the public domain and are not subject to copyright restrictions. No special permission is required to use or reproduce public domain images. However, ANY reproduced images should acknowledge NCI as the originator, the NCI Web site, www.cancer.gov, as the source and/or the image creator. The source can be cited as: The Web site of the National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov). Some images are copyright protected. If an image is marked as copyright protected, you must contact the rights holder to obtain permission to reuse. Contact information for reuse is posted at the bottom of the details page for each copyrighted image.
8. U.S. Census Bureau Photo Services – http://www.census.gov/multimedia/ All images are in the public domain but a photo credit is requested: multimedia videos, photos and radio.
9. Navel History and heritage online library http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/nhcorg11.htm
Work in Process – Since its beginnings in early 1998, the Online Library has grown to include over 22,000 images including presentations on a variety of ships, people and events.
The NHHC’s photo collection is not the Navy’s official photographic collection. For photos taken since 1982, the Official collection is held by the Defense Visual Information Center. Earlier Official Navy images are in the collections of the National Archives’ Still Picture Branch. Public Domain – to the best of our knowledge, all images referenced in the Online Library are in the Public Domain. They can be used by anyone, for any purpose, without obtaining our permission and without payment of usage fees.
10. NOAA Photo Library– http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the descendant of America’s oldest science agencies: the Survey of the Coast formed in 1807, the Weather Service formed in 1870, and the forerunner of today’s National Marine Fisheries Service formed in 1871. The NOAA collection spans centuries of time and much of the natural world from the center of the earth to the surface of the sun. Because of this broad base of scientific expertise and the geographic range under which NOAA science and observations are conducted, the NOAA collection includes thousands of weather and space images, hundreds of images of our shores and coastal seas, and thousands of marine species images ranging from the great whales to the most minute plankton. On any given day, NOAA ships, buoys, observatories, aircraft, and satellites will observe environmental conditions from Arctic to Antarctic.
Most NOAA photos and slides are in the public domain and CANNOT be copyrighted. There is no fee for downloading any images on the NOAA Photo Library. Educational use is encouraged as the primary goal of the NOAA Photo Library is to help all understand our oceans and atmosphere so as to be better stewards of our environment for future generations. A few photos in the NOAA Photo Library that are known to have copyright restrictions are so noted in the caption information associated with those images. Credit MUST be given to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce. Where a photographer is noted, please credit the photographer and his/her affiliated organization as well. Also try here for photos of marine life and videos https://marinelife.noaa.gov/media_lib/index.aspx
Just for FYI (for your information)- The photo galleries sites listed below are noteworthy but some of the materials are copyright protected and may not be in the public domain but worth looking at. These sites make no claim to give permission for use It is “consumer beware or check for yourself” However, they are great to look at for your instructional personal knowledge about the world we live in and things that affect you.
11. Department of Defense images. http://www.defenseimagery.mil/index.html A nice site to visit for educational viewing. Warning: I would not use any of these photos for commercial use or personal use without contacting the Dept of Defense because they dont get model releases ‘for their photos and state this on their site. However, they grant use to newspapers and TV news. I think this is a great site that everyone should take time to visit and the pictures of our country defense people are stunning and informational for everyone.
12. The United States Senate Historical Office http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/art/g_three_sections_with_teasers/graphicarts.htm Graphic illustrations and paints but not all photos are in the public domain The Senate maintains a collection of over 1,000 historical prints and engravings.
The United States Senate Historical Office maintains a collection of approximately 35,000 still pictures, slides, and negatives. The collection includes photographs and illustrations of most former senators, news photographs, editorial cartoons, photographs of committees in session, and other images documenting the institutional history of the Senate and the careers of senators. The collection is available for use by the media, congressional offices, academic researchers, and the general public.
Most of the photos used on this Web site are part of the Historical Office’s collection. However please observe usage of copyright Usage copyright: Most images in these collections are considered to be in the public domain, however, some images may be restricted by copyright. Therefore, patrons are advised to check copyright before publishing or otherwise distributing images from offices under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Senate. Offices under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Senate can not grant literary or reproduction rights to materials in its collection. Those seeking to publish or reproduce either published or unpublished materials must secure permission from the legal copyright claimant under U.S. copyright law.
13. History of Medicine Division http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/ihm/index.html Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) provides access to nearly 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM).The collection includes portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic art illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine dated from the 15th to 21st century.The records from the Images from the History of Medicine database are also searchable in LocatorPlus. The purpose of the IHM database is to assist users in finding and viewing visual material for private study, scholarship, and research. This site contains some materials that may be protected by United States or foreign copyright laws. It is the users’ responsibility to determine compliance with the law when reproducing, transmitting, or distributing images found in IHM.
14. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/ contains catalog records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and, in some cases, other units of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress offers broad public access to these materials as a contribution to education and scholarship.
The collections of the Prints & Photographs Division include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.