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The Newberry opens up access to 1.7 million historical images

The Newberry has announced a major revision to its policy regarding the re-use of collection images: images derived from collection items are now available to anyone for any lawful purpose, whether commercial or non-commercial, without licensing or permission fees to the library.

16th-century Spanish prayerbook – image courtesy The Newberry

Applying to everything from the pictures researchers take in the library’s reading rooms to the 1.7 million high-resolution Newberry images currently available online, the revised policy is intended to encourage users to interact more freely with collection items as they produce new scholarly and creative work.

“By modifying our rights policy, we’re reinforcing our commitment to a core component of the Newberry’s mission: to promote and provide for the effective use of our collections while fostering life-long learning and civic engagement with the humanities,” said Alice Schreyer, Vice President for Collections and Library Services. “We are continually adopting new methods of making our collections not only more accessible but more approachable, and we’re excited to see how our users respond to these much less restrictive guidelines for image re-use.”

Many Newberry items now available online are part of the public domain, and can be used and shared freely without violating copyright law. These items include many medieval and Renaissance-era items, such as their Religious Change and Print, 1450-1700 collection and the Capirola Lute Manuscript.

Though the Newberry no longer assesses permissions fees, users remain responsible for determining whether material is in the public domain, whether it is protected by copyright law or other restrictions, or whether a particular activity constitutes fair use.

The Newberry’s new image rights policy follows the recent expansion of its digital collections, including the addition of a significant portion of the Everett D. Graff Collection—now digitally available to scholars and the general public for the first time. The Graff Collection totals more than 130,000 images of books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other objects documenting Indigenous peoples in the Americas and the settlement of the American West.

All subsequent additions to the Newberry’s quickly growing digital collections, including a soon-to-be-released collection of sheet music and significant additions to the Edward E. Ayer Digital Collection, will also be freely accessible.

“In the digital age, people want to discover interesting collection material at the Newberry and integrate it into their work as fluidly as possible,” said Jennifer Dalzin, Director of Digital Initiatives and Services. “With this new policy, the Newberry is removing barriers to innovative re-use, collaboration, and new kinds of scholarship.”

Diego Valades’s Rhetorica Christiana – image courtesy The Newberry.

Free and open to the public since 1887, the Newberry is an independent research library based in the American city of Chicago. Click here to visit The Newberry website.

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