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New York Public Library Releases Massive Digital Archive

Curators’ corner

New York Public Library Releases Massive Digital Archive

The New York Public Library is one of the largest public library systems in the world, and now you can explore a vast new portion of its archives from the comfort of your own home.

The library kicked off 2016 with a “bang,” releasing more than 187,000 high-resolution digitized items in its collection to the public domain. The files include manuscripts, photographs, illustrations, religious texts, and more than 20,000 historic maps and atlases. The best part is that they’re downloadable and 100% free for open use (including commercial), with no permission required and no restrictions.

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Here are a few highlights from the collection:

  • Original manuscripts from the likes of Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Correspondence and documents from Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson
  • Berenice Abbott’s images of 1930s New York for the Federal Art Project
  • Lewis Hine’s photographs of Ellis Island immigrants and social conditions in early 20th century America
  • The first recorded photographic work by a woman: Anna Atkins’ cyanotypes of British algae
  • Handscrolls of the Tale of Genji, created in 1554
  • Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts from Western Europe
  • Sheet music for popular American songs at the turn of the 20th century

You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy the NYPL archives. This stuff is truly fascinating. Type any keyword into the NYPL’s digital collections here, and view a visual “public domain remix” here. Virtually anything you search for or hover over is bound to be interesting!

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