I recently started working in an Archives, which is about as stereotypically geeky as it gets. Every woman there has an advanced degree and we truly love cardigans because they keep the temperature so cool for the documents. I actually work with the photographs, so basically my new job is a combination of three things that I’ve always been crazy for… libraries, history and photography. One of the things that I think is worth sharing are how many really interesting, historical photos you can access on the internet for free. Admittedly, most of the images aren’t a high enough resolution to make an Art print for your trendy wall gallery, but you could definitely use them for memes and blogs, and basically, the photos are public domain. It’s nice to reference your source of course, and if you’re making money from the images, you may run into copyright issues, but otherwise, peruse away.

At the moment, I have three favourite sites.

1. Flickr Commons – So everyone is aware that flickr is a really great place to admire and “heart” photographs by your favourite photographers and probably search for inspiration. Flickr Commons on the other hand, is a database of photographs that don’t have copyright restrictions, and that were posted by museums, libraries and archives. They are usually public domain photographs, but read up on the restrictions just in case. Often time, institutions own the rights, and decide to wave them so the public can appreciate them, OR the copyright has simply expired because the photo or object is old enough. I could spend hours looking through these files, but here are a few of my favourites:

Domestic study of Irina Baronova sewing, Ballets Russes, ca. 1930sFrom the National Archives of Australia27559276590_74156c3a5e_oFrom the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland3257005706_14e0de20e8_o 3257035516_d0e4aab6b9_oFrom the State Library of New South Wales

2. History Pin is simply cool because it places historical photographs on a map, and often you can see what that location looks like currently. This is a good example, if you’re interested. If there’s a little yellow person showing in the corner, it will show you the before and after by moving the pink slider.

3. Libraries (this links to the Hamilton Public Library, where I accidentally found a photograph my grandfather took when he was in high school!) 32022189069194

This photograph was taken in Gore Park in Hamilton in 1946. My grandpa was still in high school then. He would eventually become a photographer, and I have so many of his photographs, but nothing this early. Obviously, I was super excited.

I was sort of reluctant to do this post, because it’s sort of out of the realm of the normal geekiness that shows up on this blog. Then on pinterest I saw this photo that was entitled “Few seconds before happiness”, and I remembered that Art, including photography, is a universal language that speaks to our emotions. A photograph can heal or hurt a heart, just like a song or a book, and that is worth sharing.


Hopefully, you agree.