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A new free-to-use page at the Library of Congress

It isn’t possible to overstate the value of the Library of Congress to the genealogical researcher.

Time and time and time again, The Legal Genealogist has pointed out something that’s available at the Library of Congress website that’s simply worth its weight in gold to us.

The Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation pages for all of us who need to research or reference early federal law.1

The map collections that show us what our region and nation was like as the country developed.2

The Chronicling America pages with hundreds of early American newspapers digitized for our free use.3

The many blogs that help us make sense of the vast holdings of this American treasure.4

And now we have something more to thank the Library of Congress for: a page of items from the Library’s digital collections that are free for us to use and reuse without copyright concerns — items that the Library believes are in the public domain, have no known copyright, or have been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.

The new Free to Use and Reuse Sets page was announced this week in the Library of Congress blog5… and it’s a real gem.

Want an image of, say, the Grand Court, Night Illumination, Trans-Mississippi Exposition of 1898? There’s a sketch in the Historical Travel Pictures set:

Trans-Mississippi Exposition

A picture of the youngest parader in the New York City suffragist parade of 1912? Yep, that’s there in the Women’s History Month set:

Youngest suffragette

Even an image of some of our earliest footballers, in a photo taken between 1920 and 1930… yep, that’s there too, in the Football set:


And because these are all at the Library of Congress website, they’re not just free of copyright issues, they’re also easy for us to use because of its terms of use. Because the mission of the Library of Congress is “to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people,”6 its terms of use are basically three-fold: (1) don’t violate anybody’s copyright;7 (2) don’t invade the privacy of individuals whose information might be found in the Library materials;8 and (3) don’t mess with the site itself.9 That’s it. No muss, no fuss.

Now note that this page is just a start. There’s a lot more at the Library of Congress website that’s in the public domain that isn’t on this one page. As the page itself notes: “These sets are just a small sample of the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The digital collections comprise millions of items including books, newspapers, manuscripts, prints and photos, maps, musical scores, films, sound recordings and more. Whenever possible, each collection has its own rights statement which should be consulted for guidance on use.”10

But the page will be expanded as time goes on, and it’s a great place to begin looking for copyright-free materials.

Thank you… thank you… thank you, Library of Congress.


  1. See e.g. Judy G. Russell, “Finding the Feds,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Apr 2017 ( : accessed 9 Feb 2018).
  2. See e.g. ibid., “Mapping California,” posted 18 Sept 2017.
  3. See e.g. ibid., “Up in flames,” posted 8 Oct 2012.
  4. See ibid., “Blogs from Our National Treasure,” posted 29 Nov 2012.
  5. Michelle Rago, “Free to Use and Reuse: Making Public Domain and Rights-Clear Content Easier to Find,” Library of Congress blog, posted 7 Feb 2018 ( : accessed 8 Feb 2018).
  6. Legal,” Library of Congress ( : accessed 9 Feb 2018).
  7. Ibid., “About Copyright and the Collections.”
  8. Ibid., “Privacy and Publicity Rights.”
  9. Ibid., “Security.”
  10. Free to Use and Reuse Sets,” Library of Congress ( : accessed 9 Feb 2018).
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