Finding Creative Commons Images for Scholarly Work

I recently heard a scholar complain about the lack of images of disability available online.  Working on 19th C Disability:  A Digital Reader, I’ve become a bit of an expert at sussing out nineteenth-century images that are available under a Creative Commons License.  I thought it might be helpful to post about them for those looking to include more images in their blog posts, teaching, or online projects.

1)  Wellcome Images.  Run by Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London, this resource is just plain amazing, and my first stop for images of nineteenth-century disability.  Many of the images from their vast collection in the history of medicine are available under a Creative Commons License for pedagogical use, online resources, and even academic publications. This resource makes me wish I’d dealt more with visual culture in my book!  Think of all the free images!  Almost the only thing you can’t use these images for without paying is a commercial book or project.  Be a little patient with your search, and you will likely find what you are looking for.

2) National Portrait Gallery, UK.  This is usually my second stop, and also a wonderful resource.  If you work on any British writer or public figure, there’s probably an image there, or even more than one.  Their Creative Commons license is a little bit stricter than that of the Wellcome (you would need to pony up to include one of their images in a professional academic publication), but it’s still great for blogging, online work, and teaching.

3) Library of Congress.  My work focuses on British literature and culture, so this is usually one of my last stops, though of course it might be your first if you are an Americanist.  It has saved me with lovely 19th C images of places like San Remo, where many English invalids (or at least those who could afford it) spent their winters…

4) Wikimedia Commons.  All the images on Wikipedia are available for re-use under a Creative Commons License.  I think the metadata and quality of the files on these other resources is a little better, plus I like promoting libraries and galleries, so I tend to go here last, but boy is there a lot here.

The one thing I would say is be patient with your search.  Not everything is tagged with the first word you put into the search box (in my case usually “disability”), but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Tagging is expensive, and those who do the tagging aren’t mind readers!  But there is A LOT in these archives.  I try to make digging in them my task for those low energy times in the afternoon, when it’s quite pleasant to sit with a cup of tea and look at all the images.

The Nineteenth-Century Novel, Anthropologie Style

Anthroplogie’s classics, re-wrapped.

[Reposted from The Floating Academy]

As a follow up to Jennifer Esmail’s interesting posts on the marketing of Victorian novels with classic status through new covers, I wanted to share these books from Anthropologie, which are nineteenth-century classics being marketed for the holiday season solely through their covers.  In the last post, Jen talked about how Victorian novels like Dracula and Wuthering Heights were being repackaged with gothic covers to  appeal to the Twilight generation, and how this underscored that  more traditional covers are also a form of marketing.

Anthropologie, it seems to me, is positioning these books above all as covetable objects to enhance on one’s shelf rather than something to be read.  I don’t mean that as a negative comment– I’m all for books as aesthetic objects.  Indeed, the audience for these “classics” re-wrapped is none other than me, judging by how many emails I get a day from them and how much I enjoy their sale rack.  The books are whimsical and colourful repackaged bits of nineteenth-century nostalgia.  (Could this be Anthropologie’s overall branding, and why I like it?)  It’s interesting to note that their choices–Wuthering HeightsJane EyreSense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice and Little Women–all feel safely mid-Victorian rather than more threateningly gothic in this packaging, even if one is American, two aren’t Victorian at all, and the ones by the Brontës are rather gothic.

What’s your take?  Would you buy these for the holidays?  I’m limited by shelf space and an aversion to buying books in the public domain that don’t have the added value of scholarly annotations, otherwise I might be tempted…  They are pretty, aren’t they?

Image Licensing in the Digital Age

As I wrap up the special issue of Women’s Writing on Dinah Mulock Craik that I’ve been editing, one of my last tasks is to pick an image for the cover.  One of the most tangible and exciting things to come out of the internet era for those of us who work on lesser-known authors is that there are new images them popping up as museums and art galleries digitize their collections.  Presumably we all have Branwell’s portrait of the Brontë sisters engraved in our minds, and if a gallery had a stunning oil of Charlotte or Emily in their archives it would have been known well-before the internet era. But, for lesser-known authors digitization really is making all sorts of previously unknown letters and images public.  In fact, someone who works at the Ransom Center at UT Austin told me that they’ve become noticeably busier in rare books since catalogues went online and scholars could more easily figure out just what the holdings are.

But, back to my question about the cover image for Dinah Mulock Craik.  The most well-known image of Craik (if you can call any image of Craik well-known!) is an engraving that dates from around the same time as this 1887 painting by Sir Hubert von Herkomer:

Dinah Maria Craik by Sir Hubert von Herkomer; 1887, Image Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

The engraving is presumably well-known precisely because it was engraved and thus circulated more widely than an oil painting like this one could be.

There are several tantalizing new images of Craik at the National Portrait Gallery and the Art Institute of Chicago.  The National Portrait Gallery makes their images available for non-commercial, non-professional uses via a Creative Commons license (which is amazing!), so I include it below.  The other ones you’ll just have to follow the link to!

Dinah Maria Craik by Amelia Robertson Hill, 1845, Image Courtesy National Portrait Gallery

I like these images because they are from earlier on in her career, the first so early, 1845, that it coincides with the first year she had work published in Chamber’s Edinburgh Journal, when she was 19.  The ones at Chicago are from the height of her fame c. 1858 and most likely taken by her brother Ben, who was a photographer who worked with Joe Mayall.

It’s so thrilling that these images of Craik are becoming available.  But after looking into costs, I decided that I just couldn’t justify the pricey licensing fee that it would take use one of these photos for the cover of the special issue, especially when there is a good photo of Craik from the same year and probably the same photo session available for free in this privately printed book, now in the public domain.

My thought process was that in the digital era, most people will probably be downloading  the articles in the special issue, and thus not even seeing the cover.  And, even if they did look it up the special issue in paper form, libraries often take off the cover for binding.  So, sigh, I won’t be bringing new portraits to the masses in this issue.  Though, there will be, for the first time ever, an image of her handwriting in a great article by Martha Stoddard Holmes that draws on her unpublished diaries.

Is the digital era changing the way you think about image licensing and where your resources should go?