Visual Resources Library

While the Internet provides access to a wide variety of images, these images may be of unknown copyright status and of poor quality. In addition to fee-based image providers, a number of web-based collections offer free digital images for educational use. The following list describes some of the more prominent digital image resources for art, art history, and architecture. An overview of the subscription databases for digital images available to the University at Albany community is also provided. Finally, a list of multimedia resources for arts education is provided.


Art History - General
Art History - Medieval
Art History - Modern, Postmodern & Contemporary
Classics (Greek & Roman)
Prints and Photographs

Subscription Databases
Multimedia Resources for Arts Education

Art History - General

AHDS Visual Arts (

Thousands of free digital images over a wide range of subjects, including textiles, fine art, architecture, and design. The entire collection is searchable and easy to browse from the main page. Also includes a guide to using the collection in a Virtual Learning Environment, and a list of learning resources.

Art Imagebase (

More than 82,000 digitized images from the collection of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum.

Art Images for College Teaching: A Free-Use Educational Resource (

Personal, non-profit project of its author, art historian and visual resources curator Allan T. Kohl. Intended primarily to disseminate images of art and architectural works in the public domain on a free-access, free-use basis to all levels of the educational community. Images on this site were photographed on location by the author, who consents to their use in any application that is both educational and non-commercial in nature. Images are organized into five historical periods: Ancient, Medieval Era, Renaissance & Baroque, 18th to 20th Century, and Non-Western. Also offers "Textbook Concordance" to show where images can be used in relation to major art history textbooks.

Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) Visual Arts Database (

Based at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College. Offers digital resources created by and for the learning and teaching community with an emphasis on design. Can be searched through a variety of collections such as “African and Asian Visual Artists,” “Russian Visual Arts,” “The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland,” etc.

British Library Images Online (

A subscription service offering access to 150 million items from every era of human history. Images are searchable and thumbnails of images are available to unregistered users. Registered users can access preview images, and full-size images are for subscribers only. Useful as a research tool for identifying images.

Chico State Art and Art History Slide Collection (

Contains more than 5,000 digital images from California State University, Chico. The images are searchable by keywords, creator, technique, style, etc. Clicking on a thumbnail leads to a larger version of the image, along with specific information about the artist, measurements, material, etc. There is also a list of additional resources at the bottom of the page with images from other collections.

Image Collections and Online Art (

A list of links to collections of digital images of art from all over the world.

J. Paul Getty Trust "Explore Art" (

The Explore Art section of the Getty provides access to works of art (digital images), biographies, glossary definitions, and over 200 video clips in the “Video Gallery.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Works of Art" (

Provides access to images of many works in the Museum’s collection. Images are organized thematically by collecting area (American Decorative Arts, Arms and Armor, Asian Art, Modern, etc.), but a search function is also provided. After locating a group of images to explore, each image can be enlarged by clicking on it. There is also a viewer function which allows you to click through a series of images and zoom in for image details.

Museums and the Online Archive of California (MOAC) (

A searchable collection of 75,000 records and images from 11 California museums and cultural institutions. In addition to searching for images, users can also browse through the individual collections. Detailed information is available for many of the online images.

The National Gallery of Art Online Collection (

Offers a search function by artist, title, subject, provenance, or accession number for information from a database of the entire collection of more than 108,000 objects in the National Gallery’s collection. Images of more than 5,600 objects in the collection are available. Also offers a “Web Tour of the Week”; recent tours have included “Selected African American Artists,” “Selections from the Modern and Contemporary Collections,” etc.

New York School of Interior Design Library (

A small collection of highlights from the special collections of the New York School of Interior Design Library. The site features interior design-related images from Robert Adam and Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

SIRIS: Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (

Specialized art databases and photograph collections maintained by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Includes access to inventories of American painting and sculpture with over 360,000 works in public and private collections nationwide. The “Peter A. Juley & Son Collection” is comprised of 127,000 negatives of American art and artists photographed between 1896 and 1975 and the “Art Exhibition Catalog Index” has descriptive information on nearly 137,000 art works shown in over 1,000 exhibitions held in North American through 1876. The “Photographic Portraits of American Artists” was recently added and is a unique group of 4,700 photographs recording a broad range of artists working in the United States during the first three quarters of the twentieth century.

SPIRO: Slide and Photograph Image Retrieval Online (

The online catalog for the Architecture Visual Resources Library’s 35mm slide collection at the University of California at Berkeley. Over 250,000 slides and 20,000 photographs are available, and all are searchable from the main page by name, location, subject, date range, period, and keyword. The images can also be browsed by clicking on the individual search fields.

Visual Collections from Cartography Associates (

A searchable collection of over 300,000 ancient and modern maps, artwork, photographs, and architectural images from over thirty collections. By clicking on the “description” link, users can learn more about the collection, such as whether it is free or subscription-based, and the scope of the images it contains. The images can be viewed online, or by downloading the Insight Java Browser for advanced functionality.

The Web Gallery of Art (

Searchable database of European painting and sculpture from the 12th to the mid-19th centuries, currently containing over 12,400 full-size digital reproductions, many with commentary. Biographies of artists and guided tours are also available. Intended to be a free resource of art history primarily for students and teachers. Site can be browsed by artist or searched through an advanced search interface. Provides an extensive arts glossary.

WorldImages Database (

Contains almost 50,000 images, is global in coverage, and includes all areas of visual imagery. Images can be freely used for non-profit educational purposes. Images can be located using many search techniques and are organized into some 440 portfolios; examples include “Art & Art History,” “Archaeology,” “Cultural & Social Interactions,” etc.

Top of page

Art History - Medieval

Bibliotheque Nationale de France Virtual Exhibitions (

Provides access to special virtual exhibitions in English of some of the library’s holdings. Each exhibition has a variety of special features, such as the ability to flip through medieval manuscripts and other texts or scroll through a timeline of a photographer’s work. The main exhibition areas include the “Books and Literature Gallery,” the “History of Representations Gallery,” the “Arts and Architecture Gallery,” and the “Photography Gallery.” When browsing through each exhibit, click on any image to get a full-size image.

The British Library Illuminated Manuscript Collection (

Over 3,000 images of manuscripts from the 8th to 15th century from Britain and Ireland. A great deal of background information is provided for each image. The “curator’s choice” section shows highlights of the collection. Users can search for manuscripts in the catalog, or browse the entire collection.

The British Library Manuscript Collection (

A searchable collection of Western manuscripts in the British Library. Descriptions and high-resolution images are available. Click on “Manuscripts Online Catalog” to begin searching for manuscript images.

Images from Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (

Thousands of images from ten centuries of illuminated manuscripts. Very detailed information is available for each image, and high-resolution details of complex images are available. A powerful search function for the images is available, and browsing is made easy with several categories for manuscript type, country of origin, and date.

Medieval Manuscripts on the Web (

A large collection of links to digital images of medieval manuscripts from the University of British Columbia.

Top of page

Art History - Modern, Postmodern & Contemporary

Making Sense of Marcel Du Champ (

A Macromedia Flash-based site with images and commentary on the artwork of Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp’s artwork is organized chronologically according to a timeline at the top of the page. Flash animations give insight into his methods and ideas.

The Otis College of Art & Design Online Collection (

Provides access to over 8,000 images of approximately 2,000 artists’ books as well as to a number of other collections.

The Telegraph’s Picture Galleries-Arts Section (

Digital images from recent exhibitions of mostly modern art. The picture gallery archive goes back to 2006.

Top of page

Classics (Greek and Roman)

Richmond University Department of Classical Studies Photo Library (

Provides high quality photographs of ancient sites in Greece free for educational, non-profit use. The site is organized and browsable by city.

Top of page


Architecture: The Great Buildings Collection (

Detailed information, including 3-D walkthrough computer models, architectural drawings, and photographs , on over 1,000 buildings. The collection is searchable, and is easy to browse by country, architect, building name, and a hyperlinked “timeline” of buildings. Bibliographies and sources are given for each building.

ArtServe: Art & Architecture (

Visual history of art and architecture mainly from the Mediterranean Basin, Japan, India, and Cambodia. Images are available for download.

Catena: The Digital Archive of Historic Gardens and Landscapes (

Searchable collection of historic and contemporary images that include plans, engravings, paintings, and photographs of historic gardens, landscapes, and architectural sites. Can be browsed by “Site Name,” “Location,” “Rare Books and Materials,” or “Work Type,” but a search function is also provided. The collection is particularly strong for sites located in Italy. Pop-up blockers must be disabled for this site to work properly.

Digital Archive of European Architecture (

A small collection of low-resolution scans of European architecture slides from prehistory to the 20th century. The images can be found in the table of contents, and can also be narrowed down by century and style. Some very basic explanatory information for each image is provided.

Digital Archive of American Architecture (

Low-resolution scans of 1,500 American architecture slides (280 buildings) from the 17th century to the present, accessible by browsing through date, style, purpose, and location. Some very basic explanatory information for each image is provided.

Digital Imaging Project: Art Historical Images of Sculpture & Architectures from Pre-Historic to Post-Modern (

Mary Ann Sullivan of Bluffton University has made available a collection of images which she photographed (on site). The images can be used freely for personal or educational purposes. The website can be browsed through three indexes: an index of art historical sites, an index of artists and architects, and a chronological index.

Renaissance and Baroque Architecture (

Website provides images scanned from slides taken by Professor C. W. Westfall and used in his survey course, Renaissance and Baroque Architecture at the University of Virginia. They are organized according to his syllabus and each section (i.e. Brunelleschi's Lesser Works, the Sixteenth Century-Bramante and Roman Architecture, Italy in the 17th Century-the Baroque's Beginnings French Explorations of the New Classicism). Includes images relating to that particular topic as well as comparative material. Images are provided for personal use of students, scholars, and the public.

Top of page

Prints and Photographs

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (

Provides access to about 65% of the Prints & Photographs Division’s holdings, as well as to images found in other units of the Library of Congress. Roughly one million digital images in all.

The New York Public Library Digital Gallery (

Provides access to over 415,000 images digitized from primary sources in the NYPL collections. Includes illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more. Images may be downloaded for personal, research and educational purposes. Can be explored by subject or browsed through an alphabetical name index, a subject listing, or through a search interface.

Top of page

Subscription Databases

The University at Albany subscribes to the following database that provides access to digital images.

The Grove Dictionary of Art (

Top of page

Multimedia Resources for Arts Education

In addition to digital images, other multimedia resources, such as audio files, moving images, and digital presentations are available free of charge to educators. The following list describes some of the more prominent multimedia resources for art, art history, and architecture education.

Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) (

Provides educators with access to thousands of multimedia educational resources for a range of education levels. Also an aggregator of educational resources that will index and provide access to your content. Can be browsed by subject, such as “Arts,” and is full-text searchable.

Internet Archive (

Provides free access to a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. The Moving Image Collection includes collections such as Brick Films, Net Café, Open Mind, Open Source Movies, Prelinger Archives, SIGGRAPH Electronic Theatre, Lutz Mommartz Film Archive, BBC Documentary Video Collection, Media Burn, and Independent Video Archive. Also provides a Live Music Archive, a Software Archive, and Web Archives.

Library of Congress Teacher's Portal (

Multimedia resource providing access to more than ten million primary sources for all education levels, including “Webcasts for Teachers” (videos and sound files) located at, which is browsable by subject such as Biography, History, Culture, Performing Arts, etc.

Moving Image Collections (MIC) Database (

Collocates catalog records for moving images from repositories around the world. Currently contains over 340,000 catalog records, some of which link to moving images available for immediate download or streaming. Can be explored through subjects such as “Art, Photography, and Architecture” or through form/genre such as “Experimental.”

Open Video Project Collection (

Selects and makes available a repository of digitized video content with collections including CHI Video Retrospective, Digital Himalaya Project, the Informedia Project at Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Maryland HCIL Open House Video Reports.

Top of page

Visual Resource Library
Department of Art
College of Arts and Sciences
Fine Arts 121
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222


Top of page