Free public domain historical pictures and photos from public collections

Gain access to 1,687,042 free hi-res public domain historical images from 46 museums and galleries, simply by registering on our website (which takes just 30 seconds).

These public domain historical images – which come from leading institutions such as the Rijksmuseum, Metropolitan Museum, Wellcome Collection, Musee Carnavalet, Smithsonian, and New York Public Library – are available for any use, including commercial, on one of the following sets of terms:

Please familiarise yourself with the terms that apply to each image you download, and satisfy yourself that the images do not infringe the rights of any third party, since no warranties are given in this regard.

Unlike a few other sites that aim to consolidate public domain images, we have:

  • limited ourselves to public collections that have adopted explicit open access policies with regard to their public domain images, or where relevant national law ensures that reproductions of public domain artworks are not subject to copyright or related rights (as in the case of countries that have implemented Article 14 of the EU Copyright Directive of 2019);
  • focused entirely on hi-res images that will reproduce well and can be used for any purpose, including commercial;
  • standardised the colour profile of images to either Adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB and the resolution to 300ppi;
  • made tonal and colour corrections to images when clearly necessary;
  • edited out images that will clog up search results (eg pictures of pottery shards) or are offensive (eg pictures of skin diseases);
  • formatted meta data to be consistent across collections, and added extra keywords;
  • translated hundreds of thousands of captions and/or keywords, making images findable when searching in English;
  • recorded the object ID and licence terms from the source website.

We believe that Look and Learn is now simply the quickest and easiest way to access the world’s best sources of free hi-res public domain images.

These free images are a perfect complement to the Look and Learn archive which specialises in historical illustration and vintage imagery of a type under-represented in public collections. By default, the free images on Look and Learn appear mixed with our own images; but there is a option for users to change the sort order so that free images appear first in search results.

We hope this initiative will:

  • Save you time: no need to search multiple websites.
  • Save you money: other sites may charge you for these images; we don’t.
  • Save you effort: you can access a list of all your past downloads, making it easy to re-download any image.

If you would like to be informed when new public collections are added to the Look and Learn website, please select that option on the registration page.

In order to protect our investment in collating these images, there is a daily limit of 50 free image downloads.