Home Digital Image Resources on the Deep Web

Digital Image Resources on the Deep Web

Sometimes you stumble across something that really makes you say “wow” and reminds you that there’s so much more to this internet thing than just the latest web app. Case in point is this article describing some of the visual resources available on the web. The deep web. These images won’t show up in search engines’ image searches or on Flickr (save one exception), but instead can only be accessed via the links below.

The images are a part of online collections created by institutions in the U.S. Some of the images may be a part of the public domain, but many will require permission or accreditation in order to use. So, no, these aren’t necessarily images you can use in your next blog post, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. Instead, if given permission, these images could be used in the classroom, in private study, or even included in a media project or publication.

Collaborative digital collections

  • Alabama Mosaic: Thousands images that can be searched by keyword. Images are from historical collections featureubg content from libraries, archives and museums from across Alabama.
  • Alaska Digital Archives: More than 5,000 quality digital images of Alaska’s heritage in a searchable online database.
  • Calisphere: A free online collection of more than 150,000 digitized primary materials contributed by libraries, archives, and museums from all over California. Search for content by keyword, by browsing the alphabetized subject list and exploring theme collections, such as the Gold Rush Era and World War II. Lesson plans are also available for elementary and secondary schoolteachers.


  • Library of Congress American History and Culture Collections:  These collections began as a pilot project in 1990 to provide middle school as well as high school teachers and students with digital surrogates of collection material on CD-ROM. Over the years, the collection has become a “National Digital Library” with diverse institutions from all across the United States contributing content. Search or browse alphabetized subject lists, time periods, and geographical locations. American Memory Historical Collections features more than 100 thematic subjects ranging from advertising to maps to women’s rights.
  • Library of Congress International Collections: Access content from American Memory Historical Collections as well as international visual resource collections, such as the Abdul Hamid II collection of photographs of the Ottoman Empire and the Prokudin-Gorskii collection of photographs of the Russian Empire. Additionally, through partnerships with national libraries in other countries, you can access collections that highlight the history of the United States in relation to other nations, such as “France in America” and “The Meeting of Frontiers: Siberia, Alaska and the American West.”
  • University of Washington Digital Collections: Access to tens of thousands of digital images covering a wide variety of subjects, but with an emphasis on the Pacific Northwest. The digital collections include image-heavy resources, such as the J. Willis Sayre Photographs of actors, vaudeville performers, and movie stills; the Washington Women’s History Consortium Fashion Plate Collection; the Dearborn-Massar Photographs of Architecture; and the Seattle Photographs Collection.
  • Photomuse: A research resource for the history of photography. Features online exhibitions, a chronology of the evolution of photography complete with visuals and historical information, as well as an image database.


University digital image collections

  • Duke Digital Collections: Featured collections are freely available on the Internet and include the Emergence of Advertising in America, Ration Coupons on the Home Front (1942-1945), and the 50,000 item William Gedney Photographs and Writings collection.
  • Yale University Library Digital Collections: More than 100,000 digital images are searchable and viewable by the public.
  • Harvard University Library: A Selection of Web-Accessible Collections: A list of visual resource collections that are unique to Harvard University, but reside in different repositories on the Harvard campus. Collections include the Harvard Daguerreotype Collection, the Hedda Morrison Photographs of China, Immigration to the United States (1789-1930), Legal Portraits Online, and the Latin American Pamphlet Digital Collection.


Digital image collections at public libraries and archives

  • Historical Photograph Collections at the Arizona State Archives: 33,000 digital images of primary materials from the historical photograph collections. Most of the photographs available through the public online database date to before 1940 and include examples of all types of photographic processes, including tintypes, glass lantern slides, and photographic postcards.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog: Get access to more than 1 million digital images via one of the largest digital image databases in the world. Search for images by keyword, by browsing lists of alphabetized subjects, or by choosing a collection and looking through individual image records.
  • Los Angeles Public Library: More than 60,000 images featuring the work of many notable photographers active in the Los Angeles area over many decades, including some contemporary photographers. Search by keyword or photographer.
  • New York Public Library Digital Gallery: One of the largest open-access image databases available on the Internet featuring more than 600,000 digital images, including all kinds of primary materials, such as manuscripts, maps, photographs, prints, restaurant menus, sheet music covers, and much more.

NY Public Library

Digital image collections at historical societies

  • Indiana Historical Society: An extensive collection, covering topics ranging from architecture to railroads to sporting events.
  • Wisconsin Historical Society: A visual resource for Wisconsin history containing 35,000 photographs. Of special interest is the Wisconsin Historical Museum’s Children’s Clothing Collection where visitors may browse images of more than 2,000 articles of children’s clothing dating back to the 18th century.


Library of Congress

You can learn more about the history of these collections and get details on how to search them from the article here.

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