“There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” – Abraham Lincoln

We are surrounded by a constant buzz of images. Smart phones make it easier than ever to access, take, alter and share images. These images are sources of information; created with a purpose. We do not merely see them; we read and interpret them. They have just as much power as the written word; perhaps more so, given that images can transcend languages and can invoke wide-ranging cultural interpretations.

In addition to books, journal articles and reports, images are a valuable resource for academic assignments. In the course of their studies, all our students will encounter images. Many will create their own.

We’ve subscribed to image databases to make searching for high quality, copyright cleared (for non-commercial educational use) images as quick, and easy as possible. These databases also provide key information about these images; meaning it’s easier to contextualise them and reference them accurately.

So if you’re looking for images, here are some resources to try:


With approximately 300 collections composed of over 2.5 million images (and growing), scholars can examine material such as Native American art from the Smithsonian, treasures from the Louvre, and panoramic, 360-degree views of the Hagia Sophia in a single, easy-to-use resource.

These images have been rights-cleared for use in education and research — you are free to use them in classroom instruction and handouts, presentations, student assignments, and other non-commercial educational and scholarly activities.

Access Artstor here.

Video: Artstor: an Introduction. From Artstor’s YouTube channel. Uploaded October 2020.

Bridgeman Art Library

Bridgeman Images works with museums, galleries, collections and artists to provide a central resource of fine art and archive footage.

Spanning centuries of visual communication, photographic reproductions of paintings, sculpture, textiles, maps and anthropological artefacts can all be found in the collection as well as newer forms of media including early photography, newsreels and documentaries.

Access Bridgeman Art Library here.

Image: Print screen of Bridgeman Art Library homepage. Accessed January 2021.

Visual Arts Data Service (VADS)

VADS provides a national collection of over 140,000 images from over 300 art and design collections across the UK. The images cover the broad range of the visual arts including applied arts, architecture, design, fashion, fine art, and media. VADS is a service of the Library at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA).

The images include work by thousands of artists and designers, held in both public and private hands, ranging from the collections of major cultural organisations through to small and specialist institutions. A significant proportion of the images have come from large scale digitisation projects focusing on a particular research theme, such as world art studies or pre-1900 Continental European oil paintings

Access VADS here.

Image: Print-screen of the VADS homepage. Accessed January 2021.

Bloomsbury Fashion Central (Berg Fashion Library)

Bloomsbury Fashion Central is a dynamic digital hub for interdisciplinary research in fashion and dress. Content is peer reviewed by industry and academic experts and includes interconnected major reference works, exclusive articles, scholarly eBooks, case studies, biographies, lesson plans, bibliographic guides, textbooks, video content, runway and backstage photos from fashion shows, and tens of thousands of images from museums around the world to create a rich educational resource.

Bloomsbury Fashion Central includes the Fashion Photography Archive: Curated by Editor-in-Chief Valerie Steele, Director of the Museum at FIT in New York, Fashion Photography Archive showcases rare images, international coverage, detailed metadata, exclusive academic articles, a timeline, lesson plans, and videos.

Access Bloomsbury Fashion Central here.

Video : Introducing Bloomsbury Fashion Central. From the Bloomsbury Publishing YouTube channel. Uploaded July 2018.

These databases and resources are all available to our students and staff. If you would like to access them off-campus, you will need to connect to the University’s VPN Global Protect.

Find out more about our art and design resources here. A full list of the resources we subscribe to can be found here.