The Image Collection Owned by the American People

One of the enchanting qualities of libraries is that they offer endless hours of free entertainment and an enormous return on that investment of time. ROI: knowledge.

The United States Library of Congress, one of the largest libraries in the world, is dedicated to furthering the knowledge of the American people. It was built in 1800, mostly destroyed during the war of 1812, and rebuilt from Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection of more than 6,000 books. After that, it grew rapidly in size and scale. But what I love most about the Library of Congress is the freebies it offers to those of us who want to illustrate stories with images that leave an impact.

The photos, illustrations, drawings, architectural plans and the like from the LOC are owned by the American people, rights released and free to use, and fully accessible online in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. This visual treasure trove — depicting history in the US and abroad — is totally free to use as long as you attribute the image when publishing or posting. There is a time and place for high-priced stock images from Getty, iStock, Corbis, Shutterstock — usually to sell something. But to sell a story, I look to real life representations from the LOC catalog.

Grand Staircase, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., U.S.A, from Robert N. Dennis (Image credit: Library of Congress)

Grand Staircase, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., U.S.A, from Robert N. Dennis (Image credit: Library of Congress)

Image credit: Library of Congress

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Categories: Humanities, Local DC, Photo Room, Stories

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