Visual resources course materials

Site: MyCourses
Course: Image retrieval
Book: Visual resources course materials
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Date: Wednesday, 8 February 2023, 3:22 PM

1. Visual resources guide


How to prepare for searching visual materials?
  • The search process should be planned so that a wide variety of sources are used, such as large cultural heritage databases, special materials, advanced image search engines and printed materials. Even a visit to an image archive might be necessary. 
  • Searches are text based although the information need is visual. Keywords and their synonyms, broader and narrower terms can be listed in advance (creators, subjects, places, dates etc.)
  • The detail and extent of descriptive information in image databases sometimes varies, and translation of terminology may be necessary in international databases.

Find the visual resources online guide: http://libguides.aalto.fi/vrc

VRC guide

Image: Visual resources guide. Learning Centre, Visual Resources Centre.

The image databases collected in this guide provide a starting point for searches and discoveries from the digital collections of major international and Finnish museums, libraries and archives, and other special collections valuable for research. The guide also contains information on Creative Commons-licenses, citation practices and general information on using visual resources in learning and research.

The guide contains international and Finnish visual resources arranged by general topics (architecture, graphic arts and illustration, design, science and technology, photography, visual arts, Aalto University's image collections).

Materials with a lock image  are available in the Aalto University network and from outside with Aalto University usernames.

Materials with a heart image ♥ include material licensed for totally open or partially open use.


Where to look for images?

  • Digital images in libraries, museums and archives databases such as those listed in the visual resources guide
  • Pictures from printed publications
  • Analogue picture collections in libraries, archives and museums (slides, prints, negatives, film tapes)
  • Commercial image banks and photographic agency services
  • Image content and image search engines on the open Internet
  • Image sharing services and social media
  • Artists’ and designers’ own websites and blogs

Why use image databases?

  • Image databases often contain high-quality image files and tools that facilitate the use of the material. 

  • Internet search engines cannot find the highest quality digitised works in museums, archives and libraries, because the contents of the databases belong to the Internet’s so-called deep network for which no content is included in the search results. 

  • There are probably thousands of versions of the same famous artwork on the Internet, all of which have been treated slightly differently. The official source will have the highest quality and most reliable digital copy of the work. 

  • The image database probably has the most reliable and complete information about the work, with copyright information, as well as other useful contextual information.

  • Always read carefull the terms and conditions of each database and each image to make sure the the material is usable for the intended purpose.



2. Digital cultural heritage

Digital cultural heritage is cultural content that is available as high quality digital media or machine readable text. The content can be digital reproductions of original works such as works of art, photographs or documents. Museums, archives and libraries are digitising their collections and making them available for the public on different kinds of online platforms and databases. Authentic digital versions of works of art, photographs, drawings, objects and maps are often avilable in large aggregated databases.

Openness of cultural heritage increases use potential

Increasingly, when possible the materials are also published under an open license such as Creative Commons, or Public Domain when copyright has lapsed. When materials are reusable without technical or regulatory constraints, they allow creative combination and innovative editing. Audiences are also invited to enrich materials, for example, to increase the context information of archive material, or to share new content or interpretations of the material.

This is an authentic digital version provided by Rijksmuseumin Vermeeri's painting available in Europeana (not available with google search). Click the image!

Image: The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer (Public Domain)


When searching the image with internet search engines, the result contains images that are cropped, the colours may have been changed or the image may have been manipulated in many other ways: