Image Gallery FAQ

The thousands of images on this site represent only a small portion of the more than 1.5 million illustrations and photos from the Smithsonian Libraries collections. The images available here represent a broad cross-section of the Libraries' holdings. Additional images and collections are added regularly.

The Smithsonian Libraries’ provides reproductions from preexisting digital files or new digital photography of material from its collections to students, academics and creative professionals in publishing, design, broadcast and other media.

How can I search for images?

You can search for images using the main website search box in the upper right hand corner of this page. On the search results page you can limit your results to just images by checking the box next to "images" under "Type"

FAQs for Students and Teachers

May I put unaltered images, text or content from this website on a closed and restricted database at my school or museum?

  • Yes, if there is no charge for the user and if electronic distribution is limited to educational use for a specific purpose or limited duration. The images must remain unaltered. All of the accompanying caption information must be included without alteration, and the citation should include a link back to Smithsonian Libraries (

May I put unaltered images, text or content from this website on my personal website?

  • Yes, so long as the site displays no advertisements and no sponsors, does not charge a fee for services, and does not offer any product or service for sale. The images must remain unaltered, and all of the accompanying caption information must be included without alteration, and the citation should include a link back to Smithsonian Libraries (

May I put images, text or content from this website on another general access website or CD-ROM?

  • No, unless permission has been obtained in advance from the Smithsonian Institution. See Image Use Fees.

May I print selected images or text excerpts from this website for a school report?

  • Yes, if it is a personal or academic work, and not for publication in any medium. The images must remain unaltered, and all of the accompanying caption information must be included without alteration. This type of use is encouraged; all other forms of publication are expressly prohibited.

How do I order images I've found on your website or in your collection?

Email is the most reliable method of communication. Contact for ordering images or requesting permissions:

Rights and Reproductions
Smithsonian Libraries
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012
NHB 24 Mezz, MRC 154
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Telephone: 202.633.1708

Can I download images directly from your site?

You may download images directly from the web site for personal, research or study purposes for free. This includes classroom use and student projects. It does NOT include using images to populate online courses (even if password protected). For this type of use and any nonprofit or commercial publication (i.e. book, journal, magazine, newspaper, brochure, newsletter, annual report, etc.), CD-ROM, broadcast, website, exhibition, and promotional material you will need to contact Smithsonian Libraries for the appropriate permissions and licenses.

For ordering high resolution images (for any purpose), please consult the Libraries’ Image Use Fee Schedule.

Are your fees available online?

Yes, please consult the Libraries’ Image Use Fee Schedule.

Do you waive fees for non-profits, government agencies and scholarly presses?

Fees are uniformly applied but lower for non-commercial groups or users.

What digital formats are available?

Our standard high-resolution specifications for scanning are as follows:

  • Scans are made at 300dpi or 400dpi depending on origin of the material.
  • Available 35mm slides and b/w negatives are scanned at 2400 dpi at 100%.
  • A standard color bar is available in some images, with the exception of 35mm slides.

How long is the turnaround time?

Turnaround time is generally 5 business days after return of a signed permission form for images already available in a suitable digital format. Rush service is available with a surcharge of $30 for next business day after return of the signed permission form.

For new scanning, please allow 2-3 weeks for turnaround time.

What are the methods of delivery for your images?

Digital files are delivered via a secure FTP download site. Images can be burned to a CD and sent via a method selected by the requestor. There is a $10 surcharge for creation of the CD and any express mail delivery is paid for by the requestor.

How can I use your images for educational purposes?

See our Use for Teachers and Students page for more information on this topic.

Why do I have to pay the Smithsonian Libraries a fee for use of public domain images?

As the physical rights holder of this material, most of which is in the public domain for copyright purposes, Smithsonian Libraries charges a usage fee if images are to be used in any nonprofit or commercial publication, broadcast, website, exhibition, promotional material, etc. The usage fee is not a copyright fee. You are free to obtain a copy of these images from a source other than Smithsonian Libraries.

Licensing and imaging fees directly support our collections and projects. Licensing also helps to maintain the integrity of our collection by regulating where and how our images may be used. Smithsonian Libraries provides free and open access to its digital images and the images may be freely downloaded for personal, research and study purposes only.

Will Smithsonian Libraries reproduce images still in copyright?

Yes, but only after you’ve obtained and forwarded to the Libraries written permission from the rights holder or you’ve documented in writing your “best efforts” to track down the rights holder.

If I pay a fee to a third party copyright holder, does the Libraries’ fee still apply?

Yes, it does. Smithsonian Libraries is not charging a copyright fee but a usage fee to reproduce the image from its collections.

Once I purchase an image, may I use it any way I like?

No. You must request separate rights to reproduce or use images. For example, if you plan to use one of our images in an exhibition as well as the printed catalog, there is an additional fee for the second use.

If my publisher issues a new edition of my book, do I have to pay additional fees?

Yes, Smithsonian Libraries grants only one-time use for any type of book, magazine, or journal publication. You will have to reapply for permission and pay usage fees. For second use, the fees posted are discounted by 25%.