Skip to Main Content

Open Access Resources

QUICK START: Open Access Images

Guide to finding images in library special and archival collections at McGill and online through open-access image repositories. Open-access images can be freely used for academic, web, and creative purposes. 

Copyright and Open Access 

Not all images digitized and available online are free for re-use. Remember to consult Canadian copyright laws and international regulations when using images from other locations. Please consult the terms of use for each database you consult, and for information regarding Canadian copyright law, see the following guide:

Open access images are either in the Public Domain or covered by a Creative Commons License. In Canada, works enter the public domain 50 years after its creator's death. This varies from country to country, so double check local and relevant copyright laws when using images.

McGill Digital Collections

Internet Archive

McGill has digitized over 19,000 titles which are openly available on the Internet Archive. These texts are all keyword searchable thanks to OCR, but a better approach to locate images is to search the metadata fields.


Searching for the keywords "Plates" or "Illustrations" is the best approach to narrowing results to items with images. You can then filter results by date range.

Items are organized into the following collections:

  • Osler Library of the History of Medicine 
    • Digitized selections from the Osler Library of the history of medicine including titles on the history of medicine, monographs, journals.
  • McGill Student Publications 
    • This collection includes McGill Student publications dating from 1875 to 2001. The chief long-standing student newspaper at McGill, The McGill Daily, was founded in 1911. It had been preceded by the McGill (University) Gazette, the McGill Fortnightly, the McGill Outlook and the (McGill) Martlet.
  • McGill Library's Chapbook Collections 
    • The collection contains over nine hundred British and American chapbooks published in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many are illustrated with woodcuts, some hand coloured. Selections are pulled from the Sheila R. Bourke Collection of Children's Literature, the Children's Books Collection, and the McGill Library Rare Books and Special Collection.  You can browse the accompanying digital exhibition here: McGill Library's Chapbook Collection
  • Rare Books and Special Collections 
    • Selections from across the library's special collections. The humanities and social sciences and in particular art and architecture, Canadiana, history, literature, the history of ideas (philosophy and religion), travel and exploration, and the history of the book form the core of the collection.

Image-rich Digital collections at McGill 

  • The Feather Book of Dionisio Minaggio
  • Taylor White's Paper Museum 
    • What is there: Collection of 18th-century paintings of Birds, Mammals and Fish.
    • How to Use: All items in the Public Domain, credit the holding collection if reused.
  • W.H. Pugsley Collection of Early Maps of Canada
    • Contains over 6,000 historical maps, dating from 1556 to the 1940s.
    • How to use: Search or browse the collection, double check reuse permissions on selected items.
  • Osler Library Prints Collection
    • Documents related to the history of medicine, spanning several centuries, countries, and artistic media. Ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, the collection consists predominantly of prints, though it also includes some photographs, drawings, posters, and cartoons.
    • How to use: Search or browse the collection, double check reuse permissions on selected items.
  • Horæ: McGill Library Collection of Books of Hours 
    • Collection of Books of Hours, richly illustrated manuscript prayer books intended for the laity. Contains illuminated miniatures, borders, and initials. 
    • How to use: Search or browse the collection, double check reuse permissions on selected items.
  • Canadian War Poster Collection
    • Includes some 250 Canadian posters from the two World Wars. 
    • How to Use: The search facility enables you to search by World War, by Category, by Artist, or by keyword. The results of your search are displayed as thumbnail images. Click on a thumbnail to obtain a larger image and a full description. Each description includes the following information: the poster ID number and title or lead text; the date, artist, and publisher, when known; size, and appropriate notes.

Resource key

  • McGill users only
  • Open access resource
  • Free resource
  • In-library use
  • Catalogue record

McGill LibraryQuestions? Ask us!
Privacy notice