The British Library Has Released a Million Free Images

This post by James Hunt originally appeared on Mental Floss.

The British Library is the largest library collection in the world, with more than 170 million items in its catalogue. In fact, only 14 million of these are books. The library also keeps hold of manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and video recordings, maps, stamps, prints and drawings. And in an effort to make some of its collection more accessible, it has also placed over million license-free illustrations on the web which you can easily browse on Flickr.

The collections are generated by the so-called "Mechanical Curator", which randomly chooses images from public domain books from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Better yet, every image links back to a PDF of the source book so you can determine the full context. The sheer volume of images means it's impossible for the institution to organise them alone, and so part of the project is a request that users help identify and tag the content. Essentially, you get to contribute to the British Library's curation.

Collections of materials that have already been identified since the project began in 2013 include Musical Instruments, ArchitectureSpace & Science Fiction, and even adverts. If you want a less specific overview, you can also browse the highlights collection, which contains only the most interesting and unusual pictures. You could seriously spend hours searching through these pictures, so take care not to go down any rabbit holes. Unlike the actual library, the online version never shuts!