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Image Guide

A guide to finding and using images in the museum collections and elsewhere.

Start Your Image Search

Finding the right image can be tricky. From knowing what images are available and the best places to look to navigating copyright issues and licensing fees.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What size image(s) do I need? Talk to a designer to determine minimum size requirements. From there you can run an advanced image search by image size.
  • Can I use an open access or public domain images? Check out our list of open access, freely licensed, and public domain image sources.
  • Is my project defensible by the Fair Use doctrine? 
  • Do I need to acquire a license to use the image?
    • If you must acquire a license to use an imageWhat to consider when signing an agreement — cost, quantity, limitations on depending on how they’re to be used, how large they will be displayed, and how many people might see them. You may weigh the cost verse the acquiring a more permissive use. If so, consider how broadly to license the image . . . if it's expensive maybe you're licensing for a specific use and time. 
    • If you find the perfect image through a paid source, run a Reverse Image Search to check for other options. Commercial licensing firms have been known to charge thousands of dollars in licensing fees for images that are otherwise free.  


Don’t hesitate to reach out to

Reverse Image Search

Reverse image tools are like a genie for finding images. You can take an image from your computer and use it to find higher-resolution and alternate versions, additional/similar views, and pages on which an image may appear. Savvy users may even use reverse image search to find license-free versions of images that may otherwise be locked behind paywalls in image banks.

Some of the best reverse-image search services include:

  • TinEye Reverse Image Search: uses content-based image retrieval (CBIR) algorithms to compare an image you upload to every other image in their index to find matches. TinEye uses  can find even partial image matches to your search image, though it does not typically find similar images (i.e., a different image with the same subject matter); it finds exact matches including those that have been cropped, edited or resized.
  • Google Image Search: uses both CBIR and metadata to locate images
  • Microsoft's Bing Visual Search: offers functionality to take photos, search by uploaded images, find similar images, and more.

Results from reverse image search tools often vary and it is worthwhile to check more than one.

Use Google Advanced Image Search

Google Images searches:

  • Use the Tools feature:

Google images tools


Find Free Images

How to search for openly licensed images