United States Government Image Sources

Library of Congress buildingCredit: US Library of Congress

The United States government has amassed a large number of images over the past 200+ years. Many of these are now located on the Internet on web sites hosted by the many departments and agencies located across the United States and the world. Most of the images stored on these servers are available for use by anyone, for any purpose. The images were created with funds obtained from taxpayers. As such, the images are in the public domain. Authors seeking images may search the various government sites in order to find suitable photographs or graphics to use. While these images are in the public domain and US federal law does not allow them to be copyrighted, authors should still exercise courtesy when using them.

When an author finds an image on a US government web site that would enhance a particular article, the author should use the image in an appropriate manner and provide a courtesy link to the involved agency. In addition, a note to the site operators should be provided that shows where the article is published. In some rare cases, an image prepared by someone not involved with the government may be present on a US web site. In these cases, it is your responsibility to ensure that you respect copyright. If you credit the source, you are exercising due diligence with respect to your publishing activity.

Images downloaded from government sources may be used by anyone for any purpose with the exception of government identifying marks. For example, authors may not brand their articles with logos that imply that their article has been prepared for or by the government or that it has been officially approved in any manner.

Some of the government agencies maintain web search facilities that can be queried for images. A number of these sites are listed below with descriptions. The use of these sites is acceptible for authors but the source of the image should be listed in the finished article.

Mallard DuckCredit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

US Fish and Wilflife Service
This agency maintains a web search at http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/index.php. They do include a copyright notice at http://www.fws.gov/help/disclaimer.html which mentions that some images may be the property of non-government entities. A standard notice of use should be acceptible for images received from this site.

GOV.COM
Gov.com is a search portal that allows users to find information within the US government web servers. Included are images. Use their search tool to quickly locate images stored at various government agencies. The returned results may include references from state sites as well.

Whitehouse
Whitehouse.gov is the informational site maintained on behalf of the president. Their search tool allows authors to find images stored at the Whitehouse web site and at other government agencies.

USA.Gov
This site is another portal that authors may use to search for government images. The service will return material stored on federal and on state web sites.

CDC Lab WorkerCredit: Centers for Disease Control

Centers for Disease Control
The CDC maintains a large gallery of images that may be useful for certain types of articles. Their web site is located at http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/home.asp . There are no copyright restrictions as all of their images are in the public domain. A courtesy reference and notice is requested of authors using their material.

Badlands(72125)Credit: National Parks Service

National Parks Service
The NPS maintains a gallery of images that are connected with park operations. Many of these are general topic images. Use the search tool at http://npsfocus.nps.gov/npshome.do?searchtype=npshome

Small airplaneCredit: United States Department of Agriculture

United States Department of Agriculture

Images of landscapes, crops and farming related themes are available at the USDA website http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/cropsimages.new.htm and can be searched with their online tool.

Hubble TelescopeCredit: NASA


National Aeronatics and Space Administration
NASA maintains a large collection of space photographs as well as many of ground based personnel. Find their search tool at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/index.html

Chilean diplomat posing in open car 1904Credit: Library of Congress

Library of Congress

The LOC maintains a large collection of online images at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/ which includes many thousands of images collected over the years.

Lake in Louisiana parkCredit: Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism

State Government Resources
Many of the individual states maintain online galleries of images that may be of use to content authors. These materials are also deemed to be in the public domain. A search for particular photographs may be successful. For example, a search for "Beautiful Lake" came up with a photograph from Louisiana at http://www.crt.state.la.us showing a lake at Tickfaw State Park. This image would suit any number of articles that discuss water activities.

Other Graphic Sources

Google Images
Authors may use the advanced image search capabilities at Google. Use the advanced search tool located at http://www.google.com/advanced_image_search which allows authors to specify the usage rights desired. Select "Only images labeled for reuse" and limit images for "Commercial use" and "Modification". The modification attribute may be omitted if you do not intend to alter the image. Google will return a list of images matching your keywords. Check the images to see if one fits your need. The web site hosting the image will have a usage policy such at a notice that the "Creative Commons" license applies to the work. Include a source reference to the image in your finished work.

Wikipedia Commons
Anyone may use images stored at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Welcome provided that they follow the terms specified by the contributor of the work. In many cases, this involves a simple credit to the photographer and a courtesy email. There are many images available in the Wikipedia Commons and more are added every day.

Morguefile
Another free photo site, http://morguefile.com has a lot of images that are freely available. Other than claiming that the photos are your own work, you are free to do what you want with the images. You can use them in your Infobarrel articles. You can modify them. You can use them commercially. It is a great site to use. The search engine helps you find images that fit your topics.

Public Domain Photos.com
While not a new site, this one was only recently found via a Squidoo article: http://www.public-domain-photos.com Opinions about this site are welcome.

Future Enhancements

This article is a work in progress and it will be updated to include additional image sources. If anyone finds other agencies that are useful for authors, feel free to provide a notice of the web address. As mentioned above, the Internet is great for delivering images with articles. In order to engage visitors, authors should include at least one image, and likely more, with each of their articles. These can be created by the author themself or they can be sourced from various others. Using the free sources listed can be an easy and quick way for authors to get suitable images, improving their articles.