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© The New York Public Library, 2024
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The New York Public Library (NYPL) Digital Collections platform is the primary portal for engaging with our digitized collections and their descriptions, over 922,495 items and counting. While that is a small fraction of the Library's overall holdings, it is representative of the diversity of our vast collections—from books to videos, maps to manuscripts, illustrations to photos, and more.
The Digital Collections platform contains some content that may be harmful or difficult to view. We collect materials from many cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions due to pervasive systemic intolerance. In addition, some Library divisions collect and preserve materials relating to violent or graphic events which are preserved for their historical significance.
Discover and download NYPL items spanning research subjects and historical eras.
Looking for something? Start with a search or begin browsing by item, collection, or division. For a more extensive user guide and primer, see "NYPL Digital Collections Platform: An Introduction."
Looking for images you can reuse freely? You can browse just the items that have no known U.S. copyright restrictions. When searching, select the "Search only public domain items" option to filter your results to items with no known U.S. copyright restrictions. On the Browse page, you can easily turn this filter on and off with the “Show Only Public Domain” button in the upper left corner of the page.
To download, navigate to the Download Options section under each item. Simply click on your preferred file size and check your browser’s download folder for the image.
We actively review and label materials in Digital Collections with statements that indicate how you may reuse items, and what sort of permission, if any, you need to do so.
To date, there are 297,570 public domain items in Digital Collections, and that number grows every day. You do not need NYPL's permission to use these items and there are no known restrictions on their use. However, these items may be subject to rights of privacy, publicity, or other restrictions depending on the format of the materials and what the items depict. It is your responsibility to respect these rights.
Though it is not required, please credit public domain items with, "From The New York Public Library," and provide a link back to each item on the Digital Collections website. Doing so helps us track how our collection is used, as well as justify releasing even more content in the future.
For more information about NYPL's public domain materials and projects, see "Free for All: NYPL Enhances Public Domain Collections for Sharing and Reuse."
Unless you are a lawyer and/or outside of the United States, there isn't really a difference. The term "public domain" is not consistently used largely because it means different things in different places around the world. And as a U.S.-based library, NYPL limits the legal statements it makes about materials to the jurisdictions in which it operates.
But what does that really mean? When we describe the rights allowances or restrictions for a specific item in our collections, we use “no known U.S. copyright restrictions." However, when we are speaking more generally—on our websites, blog posts, and in other modes of communication with users—we often use "public domain," by which we mean the aggregate collection of items we offer to the public without copyright restrictions on reuse.
NYPL holds or manages copyright for some items. If you need information about reusing these items, please contact Permissions and Reproductions.
Not all Digital Collections items have been formally reviewed for copyright status. For unmarked items, we do not grant or deny permission for reuse. You may want to look into resources that can help you determine on your own whether the items are in the public domain—and therefore free of copyright restrictions—including "How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work [PDF]" from the United States Copyright Office and the public domain determination chart made available by the Cornell Copyright Information Center.
If materials are not in the public domain, it is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when publishing or otherwise using the materials. You are solely responsible for determining whether your use of any digital object requires the permission of any other person or entity, or determining whether you can exercise fair use rights. You can learn more about fair use on Wikipedia, or review fair use basics and a fair use checklist from Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Office.
Meanwhile, every day we review and update the copyright status of Digital Collections items. At this time, we are not able to take requests about which items are at the top of our queue for review. If you need more information about reusing items in Digital Collections, please contact Permissions and Reproductions.
For more information about the Library’s Audio and Moving Image materials, please see our Audio and Moving Image Preservation and Access Initiative.
Digital Collections is at the core of NYPL's efforts to enable new uses of items, collections, and data.
Whenever possible, we link items in Digital Collections to other places where you may be able to find out more about them. Some of the places we link to include the NYPL Catalog, NYPL Archives Portal, and Digital Public Library of America.
Meanwhile, we also extract data from historical sources and materials, and have incorporated links to those data extraction experiments wherever possible. Some of those projects include Map Warper, Building Inspector, Stereogranimator, and What's on the Menu.
NYPL metadata published via the sources below is released under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Metadata API: All Digital Collections metadata is available via The New York Public Library Digital Collections API. This data is available in
Bulk metadata download: In addition to the full metadata output available via API, we've added simplified metadata for the public domain portion of Digital Collections on GitHub, available in
Digital Collections metadata records are also available for bulk download via the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). This includes all publicly available record descriptions for items on this site. The metadata standard we use is MODS, and the bulk data offered through DPLA is stored in
JSON. The bulk download data is refreshed roughly every other month.
To learn more about the accessibility of NYPL websites and mobile applications, see our Web & Mobile Accessibility Policy.
What harmful or difficult content may be found in NYPL’s Digital Collections?
Some items may:
reflect white supremacist and American imperialist ideologies, which include racist, sexist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes.
be discriminatory towards or exclude diverse views on sexuality, gender, ableism, religion, and more.
include graphic content of historical events such as violent death, medical procedures, crime, post mortem photography, wars/terrorist acts, natural disasters and more.
demonstrate bias and exclusion in institutional collecting and digitization policies.
Why does NYPL make potentially harmful content available?
We collect, preserve, and provide these materials to our patrons freely and openly and without censorship. Our collections do include depictions and records of people experiencing trauma and harm. NYPL seeks to balance the preservation of this history with sensitivity to how these materials are presented to and perceived by users.
How is this material described, and why are some of the terms used in the descriptions harmful?
Librarians, cataloguers, and archivists choose what language to use when describing materials. Some of these descriptions were written many years ago, using language that was accepted at the time.
Librarians, cataloguers, and archivists often re-use language provided by creators or former owners of the material. This can provide important context, but can also reflect biases and prejudices.
Librarians, cataloguers, and archivists often use a standardized set of terms, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings, to describe materials. Some of these terms are outdated, offensive, or insensitive.
Communities with less access to and privilege within libraries and archives have had less control over how they are represented and described.
NYPL is committed to working with its staff and patrons to assess and update descriptions that are harmful.
How are librarians, cataloguers, and archivists working to address this problem and help users better understand such content?
Working directly with misrepresented and underrepresented communities to improve the ways they are represented.
Informing users about the presence and origin of harmful content and providing context.
Revising descriptions and standardized sets of descriptive terms, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings, supplementing description with more respectful terms, or creating new standardized terms to describe materials.
Researching the problem, listening to patrons, experimenting with solutions, and sharing our findings with each other.
Evaluating existing collecting and digitization policies for exclusionary practices and institutional biases that prioritize one culture and/or group over another.
Making an institutional commitment to DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility).
How can I report harmful content?
Please note: this process applies only to language found within metadata descriptions of items on Digital Collections, not to the content of the original material. NYPL does not alter the content of original research material.
You can help us by reporting potentially harmful language that you see in item descriptions in Digital Collections.
Click the feedback form button at the bottom of this page and include:
a link to the item on Digital Collections
the specific language you feel is harmful and the metadata field name where it can be found (title, topic, genre, etc.)
a suggested alternative if you have one
NYPL will determine whether or not we will change or remove terms from item descriptions. We will weigh potential harm against considerations such as input from affected communities, accurate preservation of the historical record, professional best practices, and allocation of staff resources.
If you have comments, suggestions, or questions, please email email@example.com.
The New York Public Library 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 Polonsky Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Mr. and Mrs. Alberto Vitale, The Prospect Hill Foundation, and the Toshiba International Foundation.