About Digital Collections

Digital Collections contains 834,114 items and counting. While that's a small fraction of the New York Public Library's overall holdings, the aim of Digital Collections is to provide context for the materials we have digitized and to inspire people to use and reuse the media and data on offer here to advance knowledge and create new works.

Spanning a wide range of historical eras, geography, and media, NYPL Digital Collections offers drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books, videos, audio, and more. Encompassing the subject strengths of the vast collections of The Library, these materials represent the applied sciences, fine and decorative arts, history, performing arts, and social sciences.

You can search if you have something in mind, or you can start browsing directly in a number of ways:

For a more extensive user guide and primer to Digital Collections, please see our blog post, "NYPL Digital Collections Platform: An Introduction."

What does "Digital Collections" mean?

Right now, what we mean by "Digital Collections" is reformatted and digital surrogates of materials held among the physical holdings of the New York Public Library, across all of its divisions. This includes digital images of visual materials, texts, streaming video and more.

It's important to note, however, that "Digital Collections" is just the tip of the iceberg. Even in the cases where we've got great coverage, just a fraction of NYPL's collections are represented here.

That's why, wherever possible, we link items in our Digital Collections platform to further resources where you may be able to find out more about the objects and, importantly, find more intersections with other relevant materials.

Some of the places we link to:

Meanwhile, we're also hard at work extracting data from historical sources and materials, and we've incorporated contextual links to those data extraction experiments wherever possible. Some of those include:

See our Data and Image Reuse section below for more information about how you can work with the raw data from the projects listed above.

Where Did Digital Collections Come From?

In March 2005, the New York Public Library debuted a site called Digital Gallery, which featured 275,000 images from the library's collections. Since then, the Library has added hundreds of thousands of images to the repository, along with metadata records providing context for the materials.

Over time, however, we reconsidered the purpose of a site showcasing digitized materials to aid in research and spur creative reuse, and we increasingly felt that the concept of a passive "gallery" was insufficient to encompass all that we wanted to accomplish.

So in the summer of 2013, the NYPL Technology Digital Repository Team paired up with NYPL Labs to create a sustainable, modern replacement to the decade-old Digital Gallery, and thus Digital Collections was born!

How Does Digital Collections Work?

NYPL uses Fedora Commons software for our repository, while our bibliographic, technical, and rights metadata is managed by a custom Ruby on Rails app we call, appropriately enough, the Metadata Management System. Our Digital Collections platform itself is also a Rails application, but uses a lot of JavaScript (including libraries like the Internet Archive's BookReader).

For more info, email digitalcollections@nypl.org

Who built Digital Collections?

Digital Collections was made possible by leadership support from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust. Other major funding has been provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies, with additional support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Time Warner Inc., the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Mr. and Mrs. Alberto Vitale, The Prospect Hill Foundation, and the Toshiba International Foundation.

NYPL teams that contributed to and built Digital Collections:

Who Can I Contact About Digital Collections?

If you have any comments or suggestions, please email digitalcollections@nypl.org (though please keep in mind, we have a very small staff dedicated to a number of projects including this one, and we may not be able to get back to you immediately).


Downloading Images and Data

See below for more information about ways in which you can use and reuse our digital materials, as well as the data describing and derived from those materials.

Using Images

The New York Public Library is actively reviewing and labeling materials in our Digital Collections with statements that indicate how you may reuse the image, and what sort of permission, if any, you need to do so.

What does “no known US copyright restrictions" mean?

That label means exactly that: We believe that the items marked as such have no known US copyright restrictions. You do not need NYPL’s permission to reuse these materials. However, the items may still be subject to rights of privacy, rights of publicity, and other restrictions depending on the format of the materials and what the items depict. It is your responsibility to make sure that you respect these rights.

Though it’s not required, if you can, please credit us as the source by using the “cite this item” preformatted citation at the bottom of every item page. Doing so helps us track how our collections are used and helps justify freely releasing even more content in the future.

Looking for lots of images you can reuse freely? You can browse just the items that have no known US copyright restrictions.

What does “Copyright The New York Public Library” mean?

The New York Public Library holds or manages the copyright for a small number collections on this site. If you need information about reusing these items, please contact Permissions and Reproductions.

What about the rest?

We're working on it—every day, we review as many items as possible for public use and reuse. In many cases, it takes a lot of research to allow us to make a confident statement that materials have no known US copyright restrictions. At this time, we're not able to take requests about which items are at the top of our queue for review, but the materials we are reviewing will have updated item labels within a few hours of a determination being made.

If you need more information about reusing item in our Digital Collections, please contact Permissions and Reproductions.

Using Data

All of NYPL's data published via the tools below is released under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

There are a lots of ways to access and reuse the data we’ve gathered about our collections:

For more information about the projects above, see the individual project pages, or contact DigitalCollections@nypl.org.