ARCHIVES FOR DESIGNERS
This page is designed to a be a resource to graphic designers, and people who enjoy History. It is a list of free online archives that have useful resources. In these archives you can find:
📂 Images for moodboards, especially historical examples of design
📂 Images for artwork or content
📂 Images for textures or overlays (have to get lucky with high-res downloads)
📂 A part of the internet that is not clickbait-y or monetised or algorithm-driven
📂 Interesting rabbit-holes of info/imagery

The Internet Archive

URL: https://archive.org/
Content: Books, Images, Audio, Video, Software, Historic Web Pages
Style: Chaotic and Large, "retro" goldmine
Useful Stuff?: Lots of scanned books (all downloadable), The 'Letterform Archive' of Typography samples, Japanese Wrestling Magazines, Victorian Newspaper Adverts
Rating: 
📂📂📂📂📂/5 - The Best because it has so many books - you can find imagery specific to your project
Sample Search: A 1914 Book on Metalwork that could be in a colour or layout moodboard for a client who is connected to fire/industry/metalwork, page 39.



Memories of the Netherlands
URL: https://geheugen.delpher.nl/en/
Content: Images (from the Netherlands)
Style: Lots of posters, Historical Photos, Packaging
Useful Stuff?: Yes, loads of great typography, colour, genre documents
Rating: 📂📂📂📂📂/5 - Very useable UI, Easy downloads, Broad content.
Sample Search: This 1950 Poster for the Labour Party in Zeeland. Very clean mid-century typography and colour palette.
Library of Congress
URL: https://www.loc.gov/
Content: Images, Videos, Documents, Books.
Style: The de facto national library of the United States.
Useful Stuff?: A huge variety. 11K amazing photos from John Margolies, Official Maps of different eras, showing political or geographical information, Photo collections.
Rating: 📂📂📂📂/5 - Good, but some content not accessible
Sample Search: 1970s National Park Map/Leaflet. The layout is very easy-to-navigate, and could be rolled out to other parks. The use of a 3-colour palette could be used in a RISO project. 
U of Washington: Digital Collections
URL: https://content.lib.washington.edu/
Content: Images, some video. From several connected libraries and museums.
Style: Curated Collections - Glaciers, Central Asia, Kids' books
Useful Stuff?: Not many HD Images - great collections but only for reference, not use in collages etc. 
Rating: 📂📂📂/5 
Sample Search: This 1966 Poster from CORE, a prominent organisation in the Black Civil Rights movement. The typography is clean, and the hierarchy supports a direct political message. The square format is applicable to instagram posts that contain a lot of copy.
Duke Digital Repository
URL: https://repository.duke.edu/
Content: Images, in 992 collections
Style: Modern UI with user-friendly search tools.
Useful Stuff?: Outdoor Advertising Collection (American Adverts). Unfortunately uses watermarks, so more for moodboards than as assets.
Rating: 📂📂📂/5 
Sample Search: This 1970s? American United Airlines Billboard. Simple idea but the italic type and wide format help the concept.
British Library Flickr Collection
URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/albums
Content: Scanned Pages (and cropped images) from books
Style: Some curated albums, some unsorted scans
Useful Stuff?: Over 1 million public domain images. Lots of Victorian and 20th Century Illustrations. Worth exploring by 'Albums' or 'Galleries'. In the flickr image description there is a link to the whole book on the BL website.
Rating: 📂📂📂📂/5 
Sample Search: This 1886 3D-perspective infographic has a chaotic energy for such a boring topic.
David Rumsey Map Collection
URL: https://www.davidrumsey.com/
Content: Historical Maps
Style: Many maps, indexed by location and year
Useful Stuff?:  Yes - the 'LUNA Viewer' is a very user-friendly way to find images. Many infographic and illustrated maps from old Atlases.
Rating: 📂📂📂📂📂/5 
Sample Search: This Bathymetry (Ocean Depth) poster from 1960. The Helvetic-ish type, bold-texture-on-black and unusual layout are a lot of what 2021 Instagram designers are going for. It would make for a great 3-colour print.
French National Library
URL: https://gallica.bnf.fr/accueil/en/content/accueil-en?mode=desktop
Content: French Books, French Images, French Maps
Style: Lots of colonial photos, 1800s books with engraved illustrations. Posters by topic.
Useful Stuff?: Yes, but a bit of google translate needed pour un personnes des non parlez le Francais.
Rating: 📂📂📂📂/5 - Nice UI, once you get past the language barrier.
Sample Search: This 1930s map of Albania. The typeface/texture/colour use is lovely. It looks like the type has been re-drawn by the draughtsman, giving it a softer, uneven quality.
Smithsonian Collections

URL: https://www.si.edu/collections
Content: Historical, Art and Scientific Content, Open Access (Copyright free) content
Style: Old portraits, Plant specimens, Museum Objects.
Useful Stuff?: 'Open Access' images = no guilt usage. Cooper Hewitt Design Museum has objects with value for moodboards. Search broad terms - 'card' gives 52K examples of business and playing cards.
Rating: 📂📂📂📂/5 - Nice Variety, Can only download up to resolution of screen preview. Endless-scroll is slower than page-by-page search results.
Sample Search: This 1933 Triangle Stamp (Mongolia?)- A lesson for any illustrators working with 2-colour Riso - The colour interaction can be really simple/forgiving, with patterns, layout and form adding the character.
Calisphere
URL: https://calisphere.org/
Content: An aggregate of online Archives across California, especially many small colleges. Most images are links to smaller archives.
Style: Lots of 20thC photography (of California), school/academic collections.
Useful Stuff?: Yes - plenty of graphic design.
Rating: 📂📂📂📂/5 - Fast UI. Very useable - can search 'Logo' or 'Poster' and quickly filter by decade.
Sample Search: This 1983 MRI chart. The neon colour palette + Helvetica caps is a clear system to present data - the archive contains a selection of slides. Also THIS 1974 film with educational animations (and funky editing) could be good in a mood board for brands connected to science.
📂 The Arab Cover Design Archive - Mid-century Arabic book covers📂 letras_recuperadas - Portuguese street sign typography
📂 zombie_graphics - Mid-century packaging
📂 1_Shilling - Football programmes
📂 beerstainedpulp - Beer Mats
Tips for Using Archives
📂 Low-res downloadable images, watermarks, hard-to-search UI; these are very common. Finding good-quality online archives is rare. 
📂 Searching colours, or simple terms like 'Poster', 'Packaging' to narrow large results.
📂 If you need to use an image as part of a business, product, social media post etc. and copyright is a concern, then play it safe, and use Wikimedia or Unsplash - they're really clear about what you can use, and if you need to give credit.
📂 Use not-perfect sites like Google Images, Google Books, Wikipedia, Instagram, Pinterest as a starting point to find niches. E.G. Find an image with a really cool kind of tree, then put the scientific name into the 'Biodiversity Heritage Collection', to find original photographs that wouldn't be on Google images.
📂Well-funded Universities, Libraries and Institutions are where the best archives are. Go through a load of art museums or unis if this list doesn't have what you're after
📂Be wary of older websites that are 'not secure'
📂For a huge number of archives hosted by LUNA for institutions such as NASA and many universities: CLICK HERE
📂If anyone finds a good archive, or uses a historical image in their project, please let me know - I'd be interested to see how people use these resources.
📂Nice article about not getting too carried away with chronological design history: HERE
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