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Here’s a great way to pass some time: browse through some photography archives. Students, teachers, scrapbookers and bloggers may find inspiration as well as material through several different websites. Recently, Life Magazine’s historic photo archive was made available to the public through Google Image Search, which can be accessed directly from the Google homepage.

online photo archive

Some of these images date back as far as 1750 and others are as recent as the 2000’s. You may browse through photos grouped by people (FDR), places (Taj Mahal), events (the Kentucky Derby), sports, or any cultural keyword you can think of.

For example, here’s a word that’s been thrown around lately: “depression.” Type that in to find photos from the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  You can start from or simply add “source:life” to the search box on any Google Image Search page. Framed copies of any photo you find are available for purchase.

Other Image Collections

It should be noted that Life’s sister publication, Time, also has an extensive (but not yet Googleized) photo archive dating back to 1999. It can be found on the Time homepage, but here’s a direct link. You may also use the site’s search function, where photo essays will show up on the right sidebar.


National Geographic magazine offers thousands of beautiful stock photos at NationalGeographicStock which can be searched by keyword. You may also specify whether you want royalty-free images and/or images which may have their rights managed.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center has a collection of over 9000 press-release photos of America’s manned space program. More can be found here. Both can be searched by keyword.

America’s National Archive has but a fraction of its materials in its Archive Research Catalog. However that still amounts to over 140,000 digitized photographs and documents which can be searched by keyword, or leisurely browsed.

Rounding out our list, Image Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library has archives in several categories: Fine Arts, Chemistry, South Asian, or Shakespearean. Certain large images are only permitted for use on UPenn’s domain, however all images can be viewed from outside UPenn.

There’s some beautiful stuff and potential desktop wallpaper to be found in these collections. You may find some more wallpaper fodder via this February article by Tina The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper Read More .

Do you know of any other media treasure-troves?  Do you have any favorites?  How else can we use archives such as these? Let us know in the comments.

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