CRF Blog

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

by Bill Hayes

The New York Public Library Digital Gallery has many collections that may be of interest to history teachers. Since almost all of the photographs and pictures in these collections date before 1923, they should be in the public domain. Among the collections are:

Africana & Black History. Several thousand items ranging from historical documents and rare visual materials to contemporary photo-journalism, relating to the entirety of African American history from the 16th century to the present.

Authors: Photographs from the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature. Hundreds of portraits— prints and photographs—picturing more than 120 authors writing in English, primarily from the 1860s to the 1920s.

Charting North America: Maps from the Lawrence H. Slaughter Collection and Others. Thousands of maps of North America from the earliest printed portrayals to the close of the 19th century; multiple versions and editions allow for historical comparisons.

Ellis Island Photographs from the Collection of William Williams, Commissioner of Immigration, 1902–1913. Photographs relating to Ellis Island and immigration into the U.S. in the early 20th century, ranging from portraits of individual immigrants by Augustus Francis Sherman to views of the Ellis Island facility and its grounds by Edwin Levick and others.

Historical and Public Figures: A General Portrait File to the 1920s. Over 40,00 portraits of a wide-range of public figures, including political, religious, cultural, literary and artistic personalities, with an emphasis on the 16th through the 19th centuries. Includes some original prints, but consists principally of printed pictures.

Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts from Western Europe. More than 2,000 manuscript pages and associated illuminations dating from the 9th through the 16th centuries give vivid testimony to the creative impulses of the often nameless craftsmen who continually discovered new ways of animating the contents of hand-produced books.

The Middle East in Early Prints and Photographs. Several thousand prints and photographs contained in works from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century. These include books illustrated with prints or photographs, photograph albums, and archival compilations; the processes represented range from engravings to lithographs, and from salt prints to heliogravures.

“The Pageant of America” Photograph Archive. Several thousand photographs from 1860s–1920s, curated for the 15-volume series The Pageant of America: A Pictorial History of the United States commemorating the nation’s sesquicentennial in 1926.

The Picture Collection of The New York Public Library. Over 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines and newspapers as well as original photographs, prints and postcards, created mostly before 1923 and selected from the over 1 million images in the Mid-Manhattan Library’s Picture Collection. The Picture Collection is particularly rich in images of New York City, American history, and clothing and dress.

Picturing America, 1497–1899: Prints, Maps, and Drawings bearing on the New World Discoveries and on the Development of the Territory that is now the United States. Over 1,000 original prints, drawings, and maps, featuring views of American towns and cities, representations of historical events, scenes, places, and battles.

Turn of the Century Posters. Over 1,000 American and European posters printed from 1893 through the first years of the 20th-century. The collection represents the inception and heyday of magazine, book, and newspaper posters of the last decade of the 19th-century, and well into the 20th-century.

Uniforms and Regimental Regalia: The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration. Over 20,000 prints, drawings, watercolors, and printed book and magazine illustrations of military costume as well as military medals, regalia, insignia, coats of arms, and regimental flags, from most times and places except the United States.

United States in Stereo: In the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views. Stereoscopic views, or stereographs, were as varied and popular in the 19th century as television continues to be in our time. This presentation will eventually include all the United States stereoscopic views in the Dennis Collection (more than 40,000 items), front and back, organized by State or Subject Series.

Wonders: Images of the Ancient World. Over 1,700 images of the civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other ancient Mediterranean cultures as conceived and depicted by artists and travelers from the 18th to the early 20th century, as represented in book and periodical illustrations, engravings, lithographs and photographs. A wide range of subjects includes arms and armor, architecture, furniture, pottery, mythology, religion, theater and the Seven Wonders of the World.