Copyright Free and Public Domain Media Sources

There are numerous web sites where you can find copyright free and public domain images. This listing has some of the best sites I've found or helped students find. There are many others out there—do a search for yourself and let me know if you find a real winner!

Remember, most (but not all) materials (maps, photographs, diagrams, digital images, reports, books, etc.) created by employees of the federal government while on the job are in the public domain (NOT protected by copyright)—that's why most of the sites listed below are government sites.

Regardless of the site, always check for copyright and use restrictions. Some of the materials DO have some restrictions and as a teacher you need to be aware of them. For example, some of the images on some sites must be used as is with no modifications. Also, some sites specify a preferred credit line so be sure to look!

Animals, Fish & Insects National Parks
The Civil War Native Americans
Collections (wide variety of topics) People, Contemporary
The Depression/Dust Bowl/WWII Pioneers & Settlers 
Disasters Plants and Flowers
Geology Space
Maps & Flags  
Military Weather
Motion Media & Audio Collections  

People, Contemporary

National Resources Conservation Service Photo Gallery
Contains a wide variety of images ranging from wildlife, plants, crops (farm fields), ranchs, people working together to gather data, etc. Most images are available in two resolutions, one suitable for on-screen viewing, the other for print.

USDA Image Gallery
Over 2,000 images are available off this site. Many are of food crops and the insects associated with them but there are research and lab photos as well which have people in them.

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National Parks

National Park Service Digital Image Archives
A collection of public domain images of national parks, national monuments and national historic sites administered by the National Park Service. The images are available in a variety of formats and resolutions.

USGS Photo and Image Collections List
This list provides a comprehensive access point to all the image collections maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. This list includes topics in biology, ecosystems, geography, hydrology and some national parks as well as classic earth science (geology).

National Marine Sanctuaries Media Libraries
Not exactly national parks but related, these are marine sanctuaries. Images associated with water and areas the national government in some way protects. There are images for the web or print and there are short video clips. Has images of creatures under and above water, images of people on seashores and under water, vistas that include water and images concerning water pollution.

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Disasters

FEMA Image Library
Contains about 10,000 images from 1989 to the present. Mostly of earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, etc. They have a complete list of disasters that are documented by their images.

USGS Photo and Image Collections List
This list provides a comprehensive access point to all the image collections maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. This list includes topics in biology, ecosystems, geography, hydrology and some national parks as well as classic earth science (geology).


Collections

Library of Congress American Memories Collections
A massive collection (over 5 million items and counting) of maps, images, documents, drawings, etc. organized into thematic collections on topics ranging from literature to exploration to art to WWI. These collections are well worth exploring. There is something here of interest to everyone!

National Gallery of Art Images
A collection of over 25,000 images in the NGA collection. They all are believed by the NGA to be in the public domain or otherwise under their control. They do have a prefered credit line.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A collection of over 400,000 records from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Any artwork that is in the public domain is designated with and OASC marker. You should not use any other images from this collection.

WorldImages Portfolios
Provides access to about 80,000 images from California State University. Broken into categories like: Religion, Myth and Magic; Women; Cities; Science, Technology & Mathematics; Natural World and others. Make sure you understand the licensing requirements.

First Gov Portal
This is a long list of image galleries available at government sites. Here's just a few: CDC with images of diseases; historical coin images from the U.S. Mint and images associated with the Great Lakes from EPA. Not all images turned up here are usable. You need to check the status for each item.

NOAA Photo Library
NOAA is a large federal agency that includes things like the National Weather Service. Their photo library is broken down into a number of collections. They've got things like: America's Costlines, Fisheries, Sanctuaries, etc. Most of the images have something to do with water or weather—including space weather. Want a picture of a lighthouse? Try here. Looking for the fauna of the oceans? Try here.

The National Archives
Most of the images available on the National Archives web site are in the public domain. Finding what they have requires a bit of hunting but there are about 20 million items (photos, audio recordings, maps, motion media) accessible off their web site or related web sites. For example, the presidential libraries are administered by the National Archives but have separate web sites.

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Military

Navy Images
A collection of about 20,000 historical navy pictures that can be searched by ships, people and events. Most images are suitable ONLY for computer use (not sufficient quality for print).

Army Images
A collection of several thousand images, audio clips, video clips and publications. A high resolution version of the images is available for download.

Air Force Images
Almost 16,000 photos of aircrafts, operations, people, the Air Force Academy and disasters. Most photos have detailed captions.

U.S. Army Center of Military History
This site is sponsored by the Army and is credible. Aside from having a lot of useful information (what is the origin of the 21-gun salute?), it has a good image gallery. Lots are associated with events in U.S. history.

U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
Some very interesting photos not only of military history but also images of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The most useful military photos concern the Army Signal Corps in WWI and WWII.

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Motion Media Collections

Internet Archive Moving Images Collection
About 42,000 items. Lots of historic video like stuff from the 1908 San Francisco Earthquake, the tsunami of 2005, classic TV commercials, etc.

National Jukebox: Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress
Several thousand audio recordings from the LOC collection dating from the earliest days of sound recording to the present on a wide variety of topics. Most are music (like rags and Tin Pan Alley) but there are some monologues and comedy sketches. New material is being added all the time.

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Plants & Flowers

National Resources Conservation Service Photo Gallery
Contains a wide variety of images ranging from wildlife, plants, crops (farm fields), ranchs, people working together to gather data, etc. Most images are available in two resolutions, one suitable for on-screen viewing, the other for print.

Plants Image Gallery
Hundreds of plant images that can be located using common or botanical names. Most images are available in two resolutions, one for on-screen viewing, the other for print materials.

USDA Image Gallery
Over 2,000 images are available off this site. Many are of food crops and the insects associated with them.

USGS Photo and Image Collections List
This list provides a comprehensive access point to all the image collections maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. This list includes topics in biology, ecosystems, geography, hydrology and some national parks as well as classic earth science (geology).

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Weather

The National Severe Storms Laboratory Photo Collection
Looking for hurricane, tornado or lightning pictures? Visit this site for an extraordinary collection of severe weather images. Most images are available in two resolutions, one for on-screen applications, the other for print.

Beginnings and Endings
A collection of sunrises, sunsets and moonlight. Most images are from the U.S. and Antartica.

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Animals, Fish & Insects

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Digital Library System
This site provides access to several digital image collections created by employees of the federal governmental and are in the public domain. Images of birds, fish, mammals and reptiles are in the collections. Some images are offered in multiple resolutions and formats (one of which may be suitable for print materials).

The National Undersea Research Program Image Collection
Looking for images of fish, coral, divers, beachs or submersibles? This collection contains a good selection of images, most in two resolutions, one for on-screen viewing and another for print materials.

The Coral Kingdom
A stunning collection of reef images. Includes photos of reefs, the lifeforms that live in, on or near reefs and of divers investigating reefs.

Bureau of Land Management Historical Photographs
A collection of 3,500 images, most available in two resolutions (low and high) taken between 1890 and 1980 on BLM land. The images range from wildlife to ranch life to cattle grazing to panoramic views.

National Resources Conservation Service Photo Gallery
Contains a wide variety of images ranging from wildlife, plants, crops (farm fields), ranchs, people working together to gather data, etc. Most images are available in two resolutions, one suitable for on-screen viewing, the other for print.

USDA Image Gallery
Over 2,000 images are available off this site. Many are of food crops and the animals and insects associated with them.

USGS Photo and Image Collections List
This list provides a comprehensive access point to all the image collections maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. This list includes topics in biology, ecosystems, geography, hydrology and some national parks as well as classic earth science (geology).

National Marine Sanctuaries Media Libraries
Images associated with water and areas the national government in some way protects. There are images for the web or print and there are short video clips. Has images of creatures under and above water, images of people on seashores and under water, vistas that include water and images concerning water pollution.

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Space
Most people don't realize that NASA is organized into specialty subunits. For example, if you want to know about unmanned space probes and telescopes, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is the place to go.

Great Images in NASA
This is a special section of the NASA web site that contains more than 1000 high resolution images. Each image is available for download at a variety of resolutions. All are suitable for print materials.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Planetary Photojournal
A good place to go to for images from specific planets or unmanned spacecraft. Most images are available in at least two resolutions (one of which is suitable for print materials).

Hubble Images
Has lots of the Hubble images, some very famous, some less; but useful for a variety of purposes.

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The Depression/Dust Bowl/World War II

Voices
This collection, documenting Dust Bowl migrants living in Farm Security Administration camps in California during 1940-1941, is from the American Memory section of the Library of Congress includes 371 audio titles, 23 graphic images and several dust jackets from reports. Notice that many of the images are available in high resolution tif formats suitable for print materials.

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Native Americans

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest
This American Memories collection contains 7,700 pages of text and 2,300 photographs (all pre-dating 1920) documenting the lives of native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Most of the images are available in high resolution tif formats suitable for print materials.

Blue Cloud Abbey Native American Photograph Collection
Twenty-eight images scanned from glass plate negatives taken in the late 1800s to early 1900s in the Dakota territory. They depict a variety of people and settings.

Bureau of Land Management Historical Photographs
A collection of 3,500 images, most available in two resolutions (low and high) taken between 1890 and 1980 on BLM land. The images range from wildlife to ranch life to cattle grazing to panoramic views.

U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
Some very interesting photos not only of military history but also images of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Interesting view of the boarding school experience. Be careful, quite a few images are under copyright. Read the details for each image.

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Pioneers and Settlers

Bureau of Land Management Historical Photographs
A collection of 3,500 images, most available in two resolutions (low and high) taken between 1890 and 1980 on BLM land. The images range from wildlife to ranch life to cattle grazing to panoramic views.

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The Civil War

Selected Civil War Photographs
A collection of 1,118 photographs made under the supervision of Mathew Brady during the Civil War. Both Union and Confederate sides are depicted. Most are available in two resolutions (high and low).

Pictures of the Civil War
A collection of images with some text from the National Archives. Categorized into: activities, places, protraits and Lincoln's assassination.

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Geology

Earth Science Photographic Archive
Contains more than 21,600 images taken between 1868 and 1992. The archive includes images of National Parks and Monuments, geology and natural hazards (including earthquake damage and volcanic eruptions). There are extensive images of Mount St. Helens. Many images are available in multiple resolutions.

Cascades Volcano Observatory Photo Archive, USGS
Contains several hundred images, some in a variety of resolutions, concerning volcanoes. There is an extensive collection of Mount St. Helens images, before, during and after the eruption.

USGS Photo and Image Collections List
This list provides a comprehensive access point to all the image collections maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. This list includes topics in biology, ecosystems, geography, hydrology and some national parks as well as classic earth science (geology).

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Maps & Flags

The CIA World Factbook
This site is maintained by the CIA, yes the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. It contains information on the politics, economics and geography of every country in the world. Of particular interest to us is that is has a map and flag of every country—all in the public domain so you have maps you can use in a variety of instructional materials. Unfortunately, all the images on the site are suitable for computer use only—NOT print materials.

Maps Collections 1500-2004
A good place to start looking for maps. They are categorized: Cities and Towns, Conservation and Environment, Discovery and Exploration, Cultural Landscapes, Military Battles and Campaigns, Transportation and Communication and General Maps. Almost all are in the public domain but check the copyright notice for details.

Maps Etc: An online service of Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse
A collection of over 5,000 maps from a variety of sources. These maps may be used by students and teachers; read the license for details. They also provide information on how to credit/cite use of their maps.

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Questions? Email koroghcm@uwec.edu
Last Updated August 25, 2014