Digital Image Library Coming To New York Public Library

NYPL will launch a searchable database of visual materials documenting culture studies and social history internationally from the ancient world to the present. A phased rollout through 2004 will eventually total 600,000 images selected from collection strengths in the arts, humanities, performing arts and sciences, including artwork, maps, photographs, prints, manuscripts, illustrated books, and printed ephemera.

Picture Collection Online (PCO) is a select group of images from The New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library, Picture Collection. Since its creation in 1915, the Picture Collection has met the needs of New York's large community of artists, illustrators, designers, teachers, students, and general researchers. Covering over 12,000 subjects, the Picture Collection is an extensive circulating collection and reference archive, the largest of its kind in any public library system.

The Picture Collection now expands to a new frontier and offers visual resources to online users worldwide. Users may search Picture Collection Online by keyword or by browsing a variety of indexes.

The Picture Collection Online is an image resource site for those who seek knowledge and inspiration from visual materials. It is a collection of 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines and newspapers as well as original photographs, prints and postcards, mostly created before 1923. It consists of images of New York City, Costume, Design, American History and other subjects.

Funded by a federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grant, and a private donation, the first installation of PCO was launched in 2002.

Image Gate is The New York Public Library's first full-size working version of its new digital image database. Image Gate provides free and open online access to thousands of digital images from the collections of NYPL's four research libraries: the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Science, Industry and Business Library.

Offering a fully searchable database, the site at its inception contains approximately 80,000 images from over thirty research collections spanning a wide range of subject matter. Image Gate is a dynamic site that will continue to evolve as further collections are added to the database. This phased rollout will end in 2004, at which time the site will include more than 600,000 images.

Many of the images presented here are organized by collection, as they are in the research libraries. Some of these holdings were compiled by private collectors and reflect their personal interests and inclinations. The policy of the Library is to uphold the integrity of each collection it acquires, whether by donation or purchase, and that pattern has been followed in Image Gate as well. However, in some cases, special digital collections have also been created that bring together objects relating to a common subject, but which are held in different physical locations. These digital collections represent a small fraction of the content in Image Gate. The vast majority of material can be discovered through keyword or advanced searching. Images found through searching can be viewed with materials from the same source by using the links provided on the image detail pages. For further information about the bibliographic source of some material, a link is provided to the Library's online catalog, CATNYP.

Through Image Gate, The New York Public Library is providing access to a broad range of historical resources, including materials that may contain offensive language or stereotypes. Such materials should be viewed in the context of the time and place in which they were created. All historical media are presented as specific, original artifacts, without further enhancement to their appearance or quality, as a record of the era in which they were produced.

This project is funded by generous support from The Atlantic Philanthropies and The Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.


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