The what, why, how and who


The Open Image Collections is a collection of digital image sources suitable for teaching, learning and research. Sources include museum digital collections, stock images, photo archives, design resources and image search engines.

Image sources added to date

By Collection Type
  • Library & educational institution (10) 9% 9%
  • Museums & cultural institution (44) 38% 38%
  • Stock Images and Photo Communities (29) 25% 25%
  • Web Image Archives and Compilations (26) 23% 23%
  • Web Image Search Engines and Aggregators (9) 8% 8%
By Purpose of Use
  • For both non-commercial and commercial purposes (64) 56% 56%
  • For non-commerical purposes only (51) 44% 44%
By Openness*
  • 1R – Reuse only (26) 24% 24%
  • 2R – Reuse & Redistribute only (17) 16% 16%
  • 3R – Reuse, Redistribute & Revise only (3) 3% 3%
  • 4R – Reuse, Redistribute, Revise and Remix (62) 58% 58%
By Content Type
  • Contain copyrighted images only (29) 25% 25%
  • Contain public domain images only (53) 46% 46%
  • Contain both copyrighted and public domain images (33) 29% 29%
By Conditions of Use*
  • Requires permission for use (3) 3% 3%
  • Requires user registration (4) 4% 4%
  • Requires attribution (56) 52% 52%
  • Recommends attribution (13) 12% 12%
  • No attribution requirements (38) 36% 36%
  • Under Fair Use or Fair Dealing (20) 19% 19%
  • Under Creative Commons (CC) or other open licenses (22) 21% 21%
  • Under CC0 or no rights reserved (34) 32% 32%

* Figures excludes Web-Image Search Engines and Aggregators


Recently, more and more museums, institutions, agencies, designers and artists have opened up their collections of digital images for the purposes of education, study, research and enjoyment. The intention of this site is to lead users to these sources and encourage their effective and appropriate use for educational and noncommercial purposes.


Users can search or browse for image sources across different categories, such as collection type, content type and level of openness.

Screenshot of a record page. 

Each record provides the following information:

  • Description: A descriptive note detailing the content and context of the digital collection.
  • Collection Type: Broad terms that define the type of the digital collection
  • Subject: Broad terms or phrases that describe, identify, or interpret the image collection and what it depicts or expresses. Values were obtained using the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) by the Getty Research Institute.
  • Style Period: Terms that define the styles, art periods, movements, etc. whose characteristics are represented in the collection. Values were obtained using the AAT.
  • Work Types: Terms that identify the kinds of works being described. It typically refers to a work’s physical form, function, or medium. Values were obtained using the Thesaurus For Graphic Materials (TGM) published by Library of Congress.
  • Openness: Openness is determined using “the four Rs” framework of permitted activities – reuse, revise, remix and redistribute – by David Wiley (2007).
  • Notes on Usage: Additional notes on the conditions and citation requirements.


The Open Image Collections was started by Hedren Sum, Librarian (New Media Group) and Art Librarian (Design) at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Libraries. Since the beginning of 2014, Hedren has been bookmarking different open image sources using his Pinterest account. The open image sources on this site was curated based on his research on digital images, copyright and openness.