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HIST 608: Early Modern Empires and Enlightenment (Biel 2021)

Finding Images in MSU Databases and Collections

Finding Images

Images Online - Rights and Trusting Sources

Images are all over the Internet, but they should not all be used for your research documentaries.

After you find an image online, consider these three questions to help you determine if you have the rights to use it or should trust the source enough to use it in your research.

  1. What is the source of the image?  (Hint: What book, artwork, manuscript, artifact, etc. did the image come from?)
  2. Who owns the original source of the image? (Do you have enough of a citation that you could find the original source of the image?)
  3. What rights do you have to use the image in your research?  (Is it in the public domain? Is there a creative commons license that makes it available for researchers? Has the owner of the source indicated that it is available for research?)

An important component of information literacy is the ability to ethically communicate synthesized and new knowledge in order to complete an academic inquiry.  Considering the rights to use a resource in your research is an important component of this skill.

Have more questions? Contact a librarian or learn more on these subject guides.

Fair Use, Creative Commons and Public Domain

Tips for Analyzing Images

Images can be valuable primary sources for research.  Just like documents they need to be carefully reviewed and analyzed before you cite them.

Questions to consider when looking at an image. (If it is an image of an object, artifact, painting, etc. ask the questions of the original item.)

  • Who or what is the image about?
  • Who created the image? 
  • Why was the image created?

After you've considered these questions ask yourself:

  • How do I know these answers are true? 

Considering these questions can help you identify important information about images, they can help you decide if they are valuable to your research, and can help you identify additional information you may still need to discover. 

The National Archives has a useful Photo Analysis Worksheet to help you evaluate photographs. 

A more detailed description of how to read and interpret images can be found in Chapter 3 of:

  • Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn and Diane Vogt-O'Conner.  Photographs: Archival Care and Management.  Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006.

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