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Image Use Protocol: Finding Images

Best practices for locating and using Japanese visual images for teaching, research, and publications

Useful Links

The following organizations provide free access to digital images of Japan with clear instructions for their use.  The NCC Subject Guides Portal also provides a list of LibGuides introducing further links and guides on finding visual resources.

By Institution

Library Websites

Museum Websites

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
    More than 3,500 examples of Japanese metalwork and lacquer, and over 20,000 Japanese postcards from the Leonard A. Lauder collection (nearly 9,000 of them with full cataloguing), can be viewed on this site. Most of the 2,250 items from the first two phases of a survey of Japanese paintings, sculpture, textiles, masks, and Buddhist Arts are available online.
  • Online Museum Resources on Asian Art
    A fairly comprehensive resource on online databases, exhibitions, and teaching resources made by museums with Asian art collections. 
  • Victoria and Albert Museum

Academic Projects

Digital Archives 

  • A-Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Sculpture and Art an online image dictionary with special emphasis on Japanese religious art, created by Mark Schumacher who owns copyright on many of the images.  Available for academic use within his restrictions, check copyright statement in upper right corner. 
  • Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters
    Provides access to web resources related to the 3.11 disaster, including photographs collected by Yahoo!Japan.
  • Europeana a digital portal of images, key word Japan returns over 25,000 items with extensive metadata.  Guide to searchiing and copyright is eaily used from the left column
  • Japan Center for Asia Historical Records
    Run by the National Archive, the archive provides access to official documents of the Japanese Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Army and Navy. It contains historical documents and photographs, maps, drawings, and figures, including photographic magazines such as Shashin Shuho. They also have curated digital exhibits.
  • Online Resources for Japanese Archeology and Cultural Heritage principally a resource for K-12 education on Japanese archeology, contains some images and also background text on various subjects.

Online Communities

  • Flickr
    Flickr Commons
    The key goal of The Commons is to share hidden treasures from the world's public photography archives. It is possible to search for historical images across institutions. Users can add tags and comments to the images they find. 

By Image Type

Ukiyo-e Images

Historical Maps


Purposes: Collected websites and Internet resources provide users with further information on copyright in the North America and Japan. This includes legal issues of copyright and guidelines to image use provided by government offices, universities, libraries, and non-profit organizations. In addition, some resources providing image data are included to assist in legally using images from Japan for research and educational purposes.


Selections criteria: When selecting websites and Internet resources for the IUP list of useful links, we followed general selection criteria including authorship, accuracy, currency, targeted audience, purposes of the information, navigation, etc. In addition, special consideration is applied when selecting image resources, evaluating the image data provided and the procedures/guidelines of how to use images.


It would be nearly impossible to have and maintain a fully comprehensive list of digital links to Japanese images and to evaluate such a list. We hope that the links we have provided will offer quality images and further ideas of places where users may find images. Those looking for images on a special theme or topic should also consult the large range of professional and scholarly email lists and look on the sites of major commercial databanks and image providers.




April 26, 2009
(Edited September 10, 2014)


North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources
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