We appreciate the efforts of the New York Public Library, which we have posted on numerous times previously for its innovative as well as its occasionally worrisome institutional changes, to make more of its collection more available to more people for more uses. This blog post by Shana Kimball, Manager of Public Programs and Outreach at NYPL Labs, explaining the value to all of us:
Today we are proud to announce that out-of-copyright materials in NYPL Digital Collections are now available as high-resolution downloads. 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 our digital resources, we are also now 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;
- a then-and-now comparison of New York’s Fifth Avenue, juxtaposing 1911 wide angle photographs with Google Street View; and
- a “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:
- Berenice Abbott’s iconic documentation of 1930s New York for the Federal Art Project
- Farm Security Administration photographs by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, and others
- Manuscripts of American literary masters like Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Papers and correspondence of founding American political figures like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison
- Sheet music for popular American songs at the turn of the 20th century
- WPA-era lithographs, etchings, and pastels by African American artists
- Lewis Hine’s photographs of Ellis Island immigrants and social conditions in early 20th century America
- Anna Atkins’ cyanotypes of British algae, the first recorded photographic work by a woman (1843)
- Handscrolls of the Tale of Genji, created in 1554
- Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts from Western Europe
- Over 20,000 maps and atlases documenting New York City, North America, and the world
- More than 40,000 stereoscopic views documenting all regions of the United States
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. Go forth, and reuse!
If that interests you then so might this article covering the same topic from a journalist’s point of view:
…Crucially — if wonkily — users will also have access to information from the library’s internal rights database, letting them know which items are free of what the library is carefully calling “known United States copyright restrictions.”
“We are trying to make it so users can not only see things, but can make determinations about whether to use them in new ways,” said Greg Cram, the library’s associate director of copyright and information policy.
NYPL Labs, started in 2011, has been known for experimental projects aimed at spurring users’ own tweaks and remixes. One scholar used itsWhat’s on the Menu? project, which enlisted library users to transcribe its collection of 45,000 New York City restaurant menus, to create a new“data curation” of the collection. An engineer at Google has created aGoogle Cardboard application for its Stereogranimator, a program designed to mimic the proto-3-D effects of old-fashioned stereogram viewers…