Library:Finding Image Sources

From UBC Wiki


Images play a huge role in our web-dominated world, and are becoming increasingly important in the educational environment. While they have always been integral in art and architecture research, today they are a part of teaching and learning in all disciplines. Images can serve as a source of evidence, a means to present data in a visual form, or simply a way to add some interest to a paper or presentation.

It is important to evaluate the images you find online, both for their visual quality and the accuracy of the information provided. One of the problems with only using Google Images for your image research is that you don't always know where the image came from or if a website is providing accurate information about the image.

Please note: Many sources in this guide contain images that cannot be reused without permission from the owner. Please see the copyright section of this guide.

Here are some additional resources for using images in your research and learning:


LUNA Commons

  • LUNA Commons is a digital library of over 300,000 images licensed for educational use at UBC covering the areas of art, architecture, and material culture. Images span ancient history through the present, and cover a number of cultures and geographic areas.
  • The LUNA Commons database also hosts UBC Library’s collection of Archivision images, consisting of over 47,000 professionally photographed images of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, archaeology, and design
  • For more information visit Archivision.


  • ARTstor is a digital library of more than 1,000,000 images from the areas of art, architecture, design, humanities, and social sciences. A wide range of civilizations and time periods are covered, with strengths in European, American, and Asian cultures. For a full list of collections available in ARTstor, please visit ARTstor's Collection Description & Status page. You can also find out more information about searching in ARTstor according to different disciplines, such as anthropology, classical studies, history, literature, music, religion, women's studies, and many more!
  • In addition, ARTstor offers the Offline Image Viewer (OIV), a presentation tool program freely available for download. The OIV allows users to create slideshow presentations with side-by-side comparisons, zooming and panning, and the ability to customize text on the slides.


Ebooks often contain many useful diagrams and illustrations. The UBC Library subscribes to thousands of different titles including manuals, handbooks, and encyclopedias across all subject disciplines. See the Library's guide to Ebooks and ebook collections for a full list of available titles.

Some resources will allow you to view a list of all illustrations within a specific title or to narrow your seach to photos, images and maps, but these functions will vary widely according to e-book. Please note, however, that you cannot download the image as a file separate from the text.

Sample ebook image:

NAP screenshot.JPG

Committee on Abrupt Climate Change. (2002). Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved March 29, 2011, from The National Academies Plus:

Web Sources

Please note: Image and copyright permissions will vary across these resources, so it is important to read the image use guidelines or copyright policies on each site.

  • Flickr Commons - A number of libraries, museums, and archives from around the world have made some of their image collections available on Flickr. Includes materials from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the McCord Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the National Archives of the Netherlands, and many more!
  • Flickr Creative Commons - Millions of photos created by Flickr users are available under different iterations of the Creative Commons license.
  • Life Photo Archive - A collection of images from Life Magazine's archives, including material dating from the 1750s and onwards, hosted by Google.
  • New York Public Library Picture Collection Online - A database of over 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines, photographs, and postcards, mostly created before 1923.
  • UBC Library Digital Collections and Services - A home page for digital image collections created and maintained by the UBC Library. Contains lots of useful image resources on the history of UBC, the history of British Columbia, historical maps, and much, much more!

Art & Architecture Web Sources

Please note: Image and copyright permissions will vary across these resources, so it is important to read the image use guidelines or copyright policies on each site.



  • A database of images and other materials for all of the works in the Walker Arts Center and the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. A great source for contemporary art works and educational materials.

BAM/PFA Art Collection

  • A database of images of works in the collection of the Berkeley Art Museum, including strengths in modern, contemporary, and Asian art.

Art Images for College Teaching (AICT)

  • A browsable collection of select images from the history of art and architecture, from the ancient to Modern periods.


American Memory from the Library of Congress - Architecture and Landscape

  • A database of historical photographs and architectural drawings from selected Library of Congress collections.

Cities and Buildings Database

  • The University of Washington had developed a databse of over 10,000 images of buildings and cities from around the world.

Pacific Coast Architecture Database

  • A database of images and information about architecture in Washington, Oregon and California.

Humanities & Social Sciences Web Sources

Please note: Image and copyright permissions will vary across these resources, so it is important to read the image use guidelines or copyright policies on each site.


Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent

  • An online collection of digitized images and audio materials collected by the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Edwards S. Curtis' The North American Indian

  • The complete work of Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian, including all photogravures and texts.

Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

  • A joint initiative between UCLA and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, this searchable database contains photographs and illustrations of cuneiform tablets from 3350 BC to the end of the Christian era.

Canadian Studies

Images Canada

  • A searchable gateway to images on the web depicting people, places and events from Canadian culture and history.

Library and Archives Canada

  • A searchable database of historic materials from Library and Archives Canada. To search for available digitized materials, choose "Yes" from the drop down menu next to "Online". You can also select the type of material for which you want to search (maps, art, architectural drawings, photographs, etc.).

Canadian History Photos and Pictures of Canada

  • An page with links to a number of different resources for Canadian images (mostly historical).


American Memory from the Library of Congress - Maps

  • A database of historical and contemporary maps from selected Library of Congress collections.


A Summons to Comradeship: World War I and II Posters and Postcards

  • A collection of graphic materials from around the world relating to World War I and II.

Images of American Political History

  • A collection of 500 public domain images depicting moments in American history.

Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA)

  • A collection of digitized photographs, illustrations, and maps depicting Western interactions in the Middle East in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.


Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD)

  • A database of over 4,500 images, videos and audio recordings related to performing arts around the world.

Archival Image Sources

Archival collections can be a rich source of images, especially historic photographs. Many archival institutions have digitized some or all of their photographs and can be found through online databases and webpages:

UBC Library Digital Collections Digitized items from a wide variety of collections held by UBC Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives and other library branches.

Photographs - ArchiviaNet - Library and Archives Canada Digitized photographs from the holdings at Library and Archives Canada

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog Digitized photographs from the Library of Congress in the United States.

You may also find online photographs by searching these online portals:

West Beyond the West A centralized database to search the digitized holdings of libraries, archives, museums and historical societies across British Columbia

Canadiana Discovery Portal (beta) Provides access to digitized text, images and artifacts from heritage institutions from across Canada.

Library of Congress Digital Collections & Programs

World Digital Library

Sciences Web Sources

Please note: Image and copyright permissions will vary across these resources, so it is important to read the image use guidelines or copyright policies on each site.


U.S. National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery

  • A collection of images, video, and audio relating to the National Science Foundation's research in science and engineering.


NASA Image eXchange

  • A searchable database of NASA's multimedia collections, including images and videos of historical and contemporary subjects.

Atmospheric, Earth and Ocean Sciences

NOAA Photo Library

  • A collection of downloadable public domain photos, maps, and illustrations produced by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Forestry Images: Forest Health, Natural Resources & Silviculture Images

  • A joint project of the USDA Forest Service and the University of Georgia, this collection includes images of plants, wildlife, forest pests & diseases, and sivicultural practices.

Land and Food Systems

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Digital Library System

  • A collection of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's public domain photographs and maps, with downloadable images relating to aquaculture, forestry, biology, environmental management, and more.

Additional Web Sources

Please note: Image and copyright permissions will vary across these resources, so it is important to read the image use guidelines or copyright policies on each site.

Commerce and Business Administration

American Memory from the Library of Congress - Advertising Collections

  • A database of images from selected Library of Congress collections relating to advertising in the United States.


  • Duke University's digital collection of historical newspaper and magazine advertisements from the U.S. and Canada produced from 1911-1955.


Education by Design: Educational Visual Aids from the Bienes Center's WPA Museum Extension Project Collection

  • An online exhibit and image database of over 700 historical educational visual aids produced under the Works Progess Administration in the 1930s and 1940s.


  • A "copyright-friendly" collection of images for use by teachers and students in education.


National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering, Visual Resources

  • A collection of images and flash presentations relating to structural and earthquake engineering, hosted by the National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.


  • A database with images of bridges, buildings, portraits, and products relating to structural and civil engineering, developed and maintained by Nicolas Janberg, a structural and bridge engineer.


Genomics: GTL Image Gallery

  • A collection of photographs and graphics related to the U.S. Department of Energy's Genomics Programs.

Hardin MD - Medical Pictures/Disease Pictures

  • Links to images of diseases and medical conditions from around the web.

Health Education Assets Library

  • A digital library of downloadable Creative Commons-licensed images, videos and tutorials related to the health sciences, including medicine, anatomy, and dentistry.


Figuring out if you need copyright permission to use an image can be complicated. Be sure to look for copyright information about the specific image you want to use from the source where you found it. On websites or in databases, there may be a general copyright policy for the entire site; look for links labeled "Copyright", "Use and Permissions", "Rights and Reproductions", "Terms of Service", or "Terms of Use".

In general, you will want to be more careful if you are planning to put the image in a publication or on a website that anyone can access.

Here are some copyright resources that may be helpful in guiding you: