Thousands of years of visual culture made free through Wellcome Public Domain Images
A few days ago over 100,000 public domain images ranging from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Francisco Goya were released for free download as hi-res images on the Wellcome Library of London website WellcomeImages.org.
These public domain images are drawn from the historical holdings of the world-renowned Wellcome Library, the images are being released under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence. This means that all the historical images can be downloaded and freely copied, distributed, edited, manipulated, and built upon as you wish, for personal or commercial use as long as the source Wellcome Library is attributed.
When I first saw the announcement I jumped for joy at the release of 100,000 more images to the public domain! At second glance, I was not so excited. As usual the images are hosted in a complex website that is extremely hard to navigate and very cumbersome to operate. There is no simple way to view all of the images and it is like trying to buy a car to actually download one of the high resolution images. Why do these people build me up just to let me down! As always there is more than one way to access these images and I aim to make these public domain images more accessible to you the public.
Just to show you how complicated it is to actually download one of the images follow the instructions below.
7 Steps to Downloading Images from Wellcome Library
First you have to find the images you want. Then you click on “Download hi-res Images”.
Agree to the Terms
Then you have to fill in why you are downloading the image, the extremely annoying reCAPTCHA, that I just can’t ever seem to get correct. AHHH! And then finally agree to the terms and conditions set forth by Wellcome Images.
Then you are presented with a download link, which you click on.
If that weren’t annoying enough, now you are taken to another page where you have to click on another “download” button.
Save the Zip File
Now there is a ZIP file that was auto-generated for you to download the images you chose. Save it to your computer, in your folder of choice.
UnZip the Archive Folder
Now you have to unzip the file that you downloaded.
Enjoy Your Download
Now your downloaded images are in the folder that was unzipped. Yikes! and I complained about “right click save as”, this is way more complicated than a right click!
I hope it was worth it!
Fortunately the images are very nice and high resolution. So, maybe it’s worth all of the work. For me, this is just too complicated! So, for now, enjoy browsing and downloading these images from the Wellcome Images site. Hopefully I’ll be able to crack the code and give you an easier option than the one they offer.
Here are some sample images from the Wellcome Library.
In early December 2013 the British Library released over 1 million public domain images onto Flickr.com. These images are free to download and are in the public domain which means that you can do anything you want with them, they are royalty free and copyright free. There are a lot of people that are extremely excited about this announcement, and I was too at first, until I started downloading the images. So far, I have downloaded over 12,000 of the public domain images and only 28 of them are larger than 1MB in size.
Apparently, in 2008, the British Library, partnered with Microsoft, to digitize 68,000 out-of-copyright books from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Now they asking for help. Even though they know which book each image is taken from, the majority of the million picture collection is uncatalogued, and its subject matter unknown. Next year, they plan to launch a crowdsourced application to allow people to tag the images. The information gathered will then be used to train an automated classifier that will then be run against the entire collection of images that were scanned. Also, the British Library is soliciting ideas for how to present the collection to aid the tagging and metadata generation, and also make the pictures easier to navigate.
Some of the Public Domain Images
To download 10,000 of the public domain images with one click, Click Here.
Most of the folks that will be the most excited about 1 Million public domain images, are folks like you and me who like using the public domain images in our design and artwork. Unfortunately it looks like the person at Microsoft in charge of scanning the images was drunk half the time and asleep the rest of the time. The images are cropped at weird angles chopping off important words and details that would help better catalog the images. To get me on board with helping to tag these images I’m going to need a pretty big incentive. Pay me money, which isn’t going to happen, or give me something of great value. The great value could have been there, if they would have provided higher resolution better scans.
They are trying to solicit the public to help in this endeavor and as one post stated “This is a remarkable, public spirited, archival project, and the British Library is to be loudly applauded for it!” For me my excitement began wavering when I realized the limitations with this collection of public domain images. Sure, the images will be great to look at on a computer screen, but if any artists or designers want to be able to use them on a larger scale, it’s just not going to happen, the image quality is just not there. So, thanks for nothing British Library! You built me up just to let me down.
I was totally let down by the British on this one. How about you? How do you feel about this? Are they asking for too much and giving to little in return? Drop your thoughts in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear how you feel about this.