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Included in the following section are image collections especially useful for the study of decorative arts or material culture. Note that individual museum websites, listed elsewhere on this website, may also provide images.
Ad*Access from Duke University is a database of over 7,000 North American print advertisements from 1911-1955. Duke has a rich collection of resources for the history of advertising. Also see their “Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920.” (link provided below)
American Memory, compiled by the Library of Congress, National Digital Library, is a gateway to primary source materials regarding the history and culture of the United States. Over 9 million items are available, including documents, photos, sound recordings, moving pictures, books, pamphlets, and maps.
Archive of Early American Images, primary source images printed or created between 1492 and c.1825, from the holdings of the John Carter Brown Library.
Bayou Bend is a house museum for American decorative arts, affiliated with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. (Note that Rienzi is their house museum for European decorative arts.) Images from the collections can be searched in the MFAH Collection.
Boston Furniture Archive, 1630-1930 is a database documenting furniture created in the Boston area. The project is a collaboration between Winterthur and ten other area cultural institutions.
The British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings owns some of the earliest surviving representations of America (by John White, fl. 1585-93) among their holdings of 2 million prints and 50,000 drawings. Search British Museum collections online, limit to images only.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Collections Online provides several thousand images from their collections of decorative and folk arts.
Denver Public Library’s Western History/Genealogy Department Digital Collection provides images of early Colorado.
Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 , from Duke University, is a database of over 3,300 advertising items from 1850-1920. Also see their “Ad*Access” (link provided above).
Farber Gravestone Collection contains 13,500 images documenting sculpture on gravestones. Most of the gravestones date before 1800 and are located in the Northeastern region of the United States. The site is sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society.
The J. Paul Getty Museum’s Explore the Collection webpage provides images of works in the Getty collections. These include a variety of European decorative arts ranging in time from classical antiquity to date. Aside from museum collections, the Getty Research Institute also has an extensive library (Overview) and online digital collections.
Illustration Archive is a searchable collection of images from 18th-19th century books in the British Library.
The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Online Catalog, includes descriptive records and many digital images for the photographs, prints, posters and drawings in their collection. Approximately 1.2 million images are online, out of a total collection of over 14 million items. Also see their guide to other image-rich websites (Picture Catalogs Online).
The Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory Online Photo Collections document the history of Virginia.
London’s history, society and art are represented in Collage, an image database of 130,000 works (prints, drawings, paintings and watercolors) from the Guildhall Art Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives.
National Museum of American History (Smithsonian) collections contain over three million artifacts, with selections searchable online or browsable by subject or object groups, e.g. American samplers.
New York Public Library Digital Collections include over 600,000 images digitized from their vast holdings of prints, posters, photos, maps, and illustrated books and manuscripts. The images can be keyword searched or browsed via thematic collections. The well known NYPL Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection is one part of the larger database. Other subcollections of possible interest for American material culture are:Empire and Regency, Decoration in the Age of Napoleon; as well as Ornament and Pattern: Pre-Victorian to Art Deco; and Picturing America, 1497-1899.
Smithsonian Institution Collections Search provides access to images, video, sound files, and more from the Smithsonian’s museums, archives and libraries.
Formerly called the Thinker ImageBase, the collections database of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco includes images of objects from the deYoung Museum and its holdings of American decorative arts.
The Victoria & Albert Museum collections database contains over a million records, many with images, of ceramics, furniture, metalwork, paintings, textiles, and more. The museum is notable for making images available for scholarly publishing without fees. See their terms and conditions. Also find style guides to Palladianism, Neo-Classicism, Rococco, and more by exploring the website under the heading “Discover the V&A.”
The Winterthur Museum Collections digital database provides entries, many with images, for their collection of 90,000 objects dating from 1600 to 1860. Objects include ceramics, furniture, glass, metalwork, textiles, prints and paintings.
The Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database provides images and descriptive information for furniture, ceramics, textiles, and other 19th and early 20th century material culture artifacts from Wisconsin museums and historical sites. Also see the project’s blog: Wisconsin Object.
Worcester Art Museum’s Early American Paintings Collection online provides images, selected artist biographies, an associated timeline, and bibliography.