Sometimes when people contact the Folger to ask questions about items in our collections, the easiest way to provide an answer is to take a quick photo of a particular detail. This has resulted in a growing collection of smartphone images of collections materials. We are now making them available in the Folger Reference Image Collection. These images are shared under the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication License (CC0 1.0), so anyone can copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Fun fact: the current collection has over 2,600 smartphone images, and our reference librarians have only had to go back to pre-existing images a handful of times!
These smartphone images were not taken with the sort of equipment or lighting we use to create high-resolution images for publication. They may also capture bookmarks, book weights, or even the occasional thumb.
For professional, publication-quality images, we still encourage you to contact our Imaging team. It is unlikely that publishers will accept smartphone images for publication purposes; in most cases their resolution is too low, among other things. However, since these reference images are being shared under the CC0 1.0 license, you are free to use them in any way you wish, including for publication. Our goal in sharing these smartphone images is to make the collection accessible to more people, not to reproduce collections items for reuse.
If you use any of these images, you will have our undying gratitude if you include the “digital image file name” or “source call number” for the image in your project. Both of those can be found in the “media information” section on the left–hand side of the image page. The reason we appreciate this identification is that people regularly contact us to request images that they have seen elsewhere. We have tens of thousands of images, mostly of books, so it is difficult when someone contacts us asking for a particular image without a file name or call number. The Creative Commons CC0 1.0 license does not require attribution, but you may wish to include “Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library” for the image source so that other people know where to find the image for their own purposes.
GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) professionals will likely have many questions about this project. Have we considered what this means for digital preservation? What about copyright? Do we think this idea is really wise? The short answers are yes, yes, and yes. We could write a book about all the angles we’ve considered in embarking on this project, but we’re wrapped up in our renovation so we can’t do that right now. We also want to test this model for a period before writing about it, so I will simply invite anyone with questions to contact me directly via email. In the meantime, enjoy the new Reference Image collection. We’re always excited to see what people can do with items from our collection.