Public Resources

Public Resources

Media Center Image Database

The Media Center Image Database hosts thousands of publicly accessible images and panoramas with extensive cataloging. As the central resource for most Media Center projects, MCID is frequently updated with new collections and features.

Click Here to explore MCID.

Art Atlas

The Art Atlas platform presents the original fieldwork of the Media Center in a mapped interface which connects the visual resources to their physical locations.

Click Here to explore Art Atlas.

Digital Art History Index

The Media Center maintains an index of Digital Art History tools and projects. The index is searchable and includes a form for users to suggest new resources to add to the list.

Click Here to explore the Digital Art History Index.

Topics in Digital Art History

360° Panoramas and Virtual Reality

  • The Media Center has used virtual reality imaging in the form of 360° panoramas since the 1990's. These immersive images are a technologically innovative way to both teach and learn about topics in Art History and continue to be utilized in new applications, such as a with VR headset.
  • Click Here to view a panoramic tour which can be viewed on a computer, mobile device or in VR.

3D Printing

  • 3D Printing is a technology which constructs computer models from a variety of materials (most commonly plastic). The model is constructed by adding layers upon layers of material to create the 3D form of the object.
  • 3D printing has found a wide array of applications in recent years including medical, industrial design, fashion, art, and other applications.
  • Click Here to view a timelapse video of a 3D printed model of the Eiffel Tower.

Bibliographic Software

  • Bibliographic software can help users organize sources, generate bibliographies, and manage citations. CUIT offers free downloads of some of the leading bibliographic software packages.
  • Click Here to see a listing of software available.

Content Management Systems

  • A Content Management System (CMS) is a type of web framework designed in part to allow multiple users to add content to a website without having to have a deep knowledge of how the site works. Many CMSs are open-source and supported by large communities of developers and users who create modules and plugins to extend the capabilities of CMS-based websites.
  • Some of the most widely used CMS packages are WordpressDrupal, and Joomla.
  • The CMS Omeka is specifically designed for cataloging collections of artwork and other objects.
  • The Media Center (and much of Columbia itself) uses Drupal to create sites that allow faculty, students, and others to create their own content and draw from the extensive materials in our collections.

High Resolution Zooming Images

  • Because modern cameras are able to capture so much detail in each image, online tools need sophisticated methods to show the full resolution. If the entire image were loaded at once, it could take a very long time and be awkward to work with. Instead high resolution images are usually viewed in the form of smaller images which are tiled to make the larger image.
  • The Media Center uses Openseadragon to display all of our original fieldwork at its full resolution within MCID.
  • Click Here to view a historical panorama of Istanbul. You can zoom in or out by scrolling with a mouse or touchpad, or by using the on screen controls.

Laser scanning

  • Laser scanning is a digitization technology which uses a stationary laser system to shoot millions of points extremely rapidly over a surface or object. These points tell the system, with a great degree of accuracy, their distance from the scanner, thereby creating a detailed point cloud. Multiple point clouds can be combined to create unified models.
  • Click Here to view a laser scan created during the Mapping Gothic France Project.

Mapping Software

  • Mapping projects often have varied goals and needs, and the abundance of software (free and proprietary) presents users with no shortage of choice.
  • Click Here for an extensive list of mapping tools.
  • Neatline is a tool which combines timelines and maps into spatial narratives.

Open-source and Proprietary Software

  • Whenever possible, the Media Center encourages the use of open-source software rather than proprietary and paid products for the creation of digital projects.
  • Open-source tools are built and maintained by communities of users rather than companies and seek to make the best product they can available to the widest audience.
  • Open-source software used by the Media Center is responsible for our servers, databases, zooming images, and presentation tools.
  • In some cases, as with the high-quality satellite imagery from Google Maps, open-source alternatives are inferior or difficult to use. But these proprietary systems should only be used with the understanding that portions of a project will become subject to the decisions of a company who often has priorities other than those of the project. Proprietary systems may also become unsupported, such as Apple QTVR or Adobe Flash, making portions of a project unavailable to many users on many platforms.


  • Photogrammetry is a technique which uses still images to assemble a 3D model that has accurate photographic color, dimensions, and texture. By capturing photos while moving around an object, software can determine the placement of the different images relative to the object of focus. A model is then generated and given a photographic texture. Photogrammetry is remarkable for its accessibility in comparison with other 3D scanning and modeling techniques.
  • Click Here to view a sample photogrammetric model by the Media Center.

Browse Online Image Databases

Always review the institution's image use terms and conditions before using any images from a source below.

American Institute of Indian Studies

The AIIS collection has over 125,000 photographs in their online collection, many of which are comprehensive excavation and archaeological images.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Over 50,000 images of works in the online collection of the Art Institute of Chicago are in the public domain and free to use and download. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

The Barnes Foundation

Over 2,000 images in the Barnes Online Collection are in the public domain and free for use and download. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

The British Library

The British Library has put all of their scans of public domain artworks into Flickr. These are free to use and download.

The British Museum

Over 2 million records are available online through the British Museum's online collection, many of which are under creative commons license. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum has an extensive online image collection, many of which are under creative commons license.

Centre Pompidou

Over 100,000 images from the Centre Pompidou are available in their online collection.

Cleveland Museum of Art

A large number of the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art are available online, many of which can be downloaded.

Creative Commons

Searching through Creative Commons can also aid in your search for free-use images.

The Frick Collection

The Frick has a comprehensive online image collection where you may save images to your own collection.

The Getty

Through the Getty's Open Content Program, over 100,000 images in the public domain from their collections are free to use and download.

Google Arts and Culture

Google brings together selected images from museum collections to provide a comprehensive online database of high quality images.

Google Image Search

For an aggregate search of free-use images you can use Google Images with search tools activated to filter for image rights. See sample search here.

The Guggenheim

The Guggenheim offers a portion of their collection between venues available for viewing online.

Harvard University Art Museums

Harvard University's online collections allows you to browse over 230,000 images, many of which are available for download.

The Hermitage

Thousands of artworks from the Hermitage are available online, many of which can be downloaded.

Kyoto National Museum

Over 10,000 images of the Kyoto National Museum's collections are available online.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LACMA's online collection includes over 20,000 images of works in the public domain, available for free use and download. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has opened up portions of their image collection for online download through their Open Access program. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

Media Center for Art History, Columbia University

Many of our original images can be used free of charge with proper citation. These can be found in MCID. Complete the copyright request form on an image record page to submit a request.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Mia counts over 60,000 works in their online collection as public domain, free to use and download.

Museo Nacional del Prado

The Prado Museum has an extensive online collection, with images avaiable for download. 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Much of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe's online collection is in the public domain. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa has over 800,000 images in their online collection, many of which have a creative commons license.

Museum of Modern Art

MoMA's extensive online collection includes over 80,000 images and the institution's exhibition history from 1929-present.

The National Gallery, London

Many of images of paintings in the National Gallery's collection are available for download online.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Through the National Gallery of Art's Open Access program, a large portion of their image collection in the public domain is free to use and download.

National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

Over 400,000 images from the Oslo National Museum are available online, many of which are available to download.

New York Public Library

For images in the public domain, the NYPL has an excellent resource. Find images here.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Nearly 150,000 images are available in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's online image collection, many of which are available for download.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

SAAM's large online collection offers images available for download, as well as a number of creative browsing tools, allowing you to search artwork by state, artist birthday, color, or emoji.

Smithsonian Open Access

The Smithsonian has made available nearly 3 million images for free use across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

Statens Museum for Kunst

The National Gallery of Denmark offers over 25,000 images from their collection in the public domain for free use and download.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Over 5,000 works in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum's collection are viewable online.

Tate Galleries

Tate galleries have an extensive online collection, parts of which are under creative commons license. Please review their terms and conditions before using any of their images.

Uffizi Galleries

The Uffizi has works in their online collection from The Uffizi, Pitti Palace, and Boboli Gardens. 

Victoria & Albert Museum

The V&A has nearly 1 million images in their collection online, many of which can be downloaded.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a database of over 30 million freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute. Browse images here.

Yale University

Both the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art have collections online, many works of which are in the public domain and available for free use and download.