Last week on Websites for Writers I talked about the American Folklife Center. This week I want to look at another branch of the Library of Congress, the Prints and Photographs Reading Room.
Need some visual detail for your historical novel? Need some illustrations for a nonfiction work? Looking for a writing prompt? The Library of Congress has put up thousands of historical images, many of them in the public domain. This has kept me within the art budget of more than one of my books!
The online catalog can be searched in all the usual ways. There are also themed collections, such as Civil War, baseball cards, and the Wright brothers. While most of the images are of the United States or of Americans overseas, there are also international collections, such as a beautiful series of old Japanese prints.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so the ideas and information you can get from this database can help you write a library worth of books!
[The first image is of a boy soldier of the Civil War, probably a drummer boy given a gun so he'd look cuter for the picture. The second is of a pharmaceutical lab at Howard University ca. 1900, a leading black university. The third is of the Tea-Water Canal in Tokyo, printed in 1858]