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The Smithsonian Has Released Over 4M Free Images From Its Collections Online


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In clockwise direction: Cathedral Window Quilt by Viola Canady, Olivetti Studio 46 typewriter used by Octavia Butler, African lion photographed by Mehgan Murphy, In the Sunlight by Childe Hassam, images via Smithsonian Open Access (CC0)

When you think of the public domain, dusty photos nobody would want to hold on to might spring to mind. The Smithsonian begs to differ. Home to a collective of museums and educational and research institutions, it published 2.8 million digitized images of national treasures in 2020 for all to use at no cost. Today, the free-to-use collection has expanded to over 4.4 assets.

Everything in the Smithsonian Open Access bank—including both 2D and 3D digital items—comes under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0), also known as public domain, license. The selection combines the vast repositories of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, the National Zoo, nine research centers, libraries, and archives. So whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a game designer, or an artist searching for inspiration from the past, there’ll be something for you.

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