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New York Public Library releases 180,000 images in to the public domain

In a blog posting the New York Public Library announced that out-of-copyright materials in NYPL Digital Collections would be available as high-resolution downloads and, in its words 'No permission required, no hoops to jump through: just go forth and reuse!

The release of more than 180,000 digitized items represents both a simplification and an enhancement of digital access to a trove of unique and rare materials: a removal of administration fees and processes from public domain content, and also improvements to interfaces — popular and technical — to the digital assets themselves. Online users of the NYPL Digital Collections website will find more prominent download links and filters highlighting restriction-free content; while more technically inclined users will also benefit from updates to the Digital Collections API enabling bulk use and analysis, as well as data exports and utilities posted to NYPL's GitHub account. These changes are intended to facilitate sharing, research and reuse by scholars, artists, educators, technologists, publishers, and Internet users of all kinds. All subsequently digitized public domain collections will be made available in the same way, joining a growing repository of open materials.

To encourage novel uses of the NYPL's digital resources, it is also accepting applications for a new Remix Residency program. Administered by the Library's digitization and innovation team, NYPL Labs, the residency is intended for artists, information designers, software developers, data scientists, journalists, digital researchers, and others to make transformative and creative uses of digital collections and data,and the public domain assets in particular. Two projects will be selected, receiving financial and consultative support from Library curators and technologists.

To provide further inspiration for reuse, the NYPL Labs team has also released several demonstration projects delving into specific collections, as well as a visual browsing tool allowing users to explore the public domain collections at scale. These projects, which suggest just a few of the myriad investigations made possible by fully opening these collections, include:

  • a "mansion builder" game, exploring floor plans of grand turn-of-the-century New York apartments; 
  • then-and-now comparison of New York's Fifth Avenue, juxtaposing 1911 wide angle photographs with Google Street View; and
  • "trip planner" using locations extracted from mid-20th century motor guides that listed hotels, restaurants, bars, and other destinations where Black travelers would be welcome.

The public domain release spans the breadth and depth of NYPL's holdings, from the Library's rich New York City collection, historic maps, botanical illustrations, unique manuscripts, photographs, ancient religious texts, and more. Materials include:

Visit nypl.org/publicdomain for information about the materials related to the public domain update and links to all of the projects demonstrating creative reuse of public domain materials. 

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