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NYPL offers high-res options

The Legal Genealogist is heading off to Salt Lake City later today, in advance of next week’s Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), but can’t leave without taking a quick moment to highlight a brand-new announcement by the New York Public Library.


It has just enhanced its NYPL Digital Collections offerings of public domain materials by offering them as high-resolution downloads we can all use without any copyright concerns. As the announcement said: “No permission required, no hoops to jump through: just go forth and reuse!”1

More than 180,000 digitized items are now free of administrative and processing fees, free of permission requests, free of any hassles at all. And, the announcement tells us, “Online users of the NYPL Digital Collections website will find more prominent download links and filters highlighting restriction-free content…”2

That free content includes some of the best of the Library’s holdings, including papers and correspondence of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison; manuscripts from Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau; more than 40,000 stereoscopes from all parts of the United States; and more than 20,000 maps and atlases from around the world.

The NYPL announcement explains that the 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.”3

To show off the ways these public domain materials can be used, the library has some really neat features and demonstration projects:

• “a visual browsing tool allowing users to explore the public domain collections at scale;”

• “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.”

For more information on the public domain materials and projects at the NYPL, check out the Library’s public domain page,


  1. Shana Kimball, “Free for All: NYPL Enhances Public Domain Collections For Sharing and Reuse,” NYPL Blogs, posted 5 Jan 2016 ( : accessed 6 Jan 2016).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
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