Dieter Petereit February 10th, 2014

New Old Stock: Public Domain Photos from Institutional Archives Worldwide

Many institutions create and collect photos and make them available as Public Domain or licenses closest to that. As we all know, public institutions don’t really care to make their services comfortably usable. On top of that these collections contain loads more chaff than wheat. Cole Townsend from Buffalo, New York has come to our rescue. His Tumblr project “New Old Stock” curates the best free photos from public archives and it does quite a job…


New Old Stock: Old, but Great Photos

New Old Stock is a paradise for vintage fans. This is due to the fact, you might have expected it, the photos all have a certain age. If you couldn’t already tell from the motifs, you could well come to the conclusion, New Old Stock is the shrine of one manic Instagrammer. The typical look is too obvious.


Cole Townsend uses only material that has been defined as being free of any known rights. This definition has been done officially by the respective institutions. If you look at the lengthy list of participators you’ll find lots of national museums as well as the NASA and Getty Institute. Each institute has issued a declaration of rights. I can’t think of any collection to worry less about that being really true.

Townsend offers a search function, yet it is unclear what this search sets up upon. Results were rather random during my tests. Probably there is an internal list of not very well maintained keywords to perform the search on. I cannot tell in any reliable way.


Besides the search function you’ll not find any concept aiding you in finding contents reliably. There are no categories, no tags nor image descriptions which contents could be used to function as search results - nothing. The only way to discover the collection, besides the alibi search feature, is to manually click through the portfolio.

Besides that all the typical Tumblr features are there. Share contents to Facebook, Twitter or via email, like them and reblog.


Having become a fan of the collection, you’ll want to stay updated on new additions, which is easy. Either you follow the project directly on Tumblr (given you are a Tumblr user yourself), or follow the Twitter account of the project. Here, Townsend posts new additions with the photo itself attached. That way it is easy to determine whether a visit at New Old Stock would be worthwhile (as the Twitter pic is not in full resolution).

The quality of the photos does not follow any reliable standards. Check for yourself, if the resolution and other technical properties fit the needs of your project.

One thing is for sure. New Old Stock definitely carries more than one or two gems which alone make a visit, and a bookmark, for that matter, more than worthwhile, mandatory even. Remember to follow the Twitter account…

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Dieter Petereit

Dieter Petereit is a veteran of the web with over 25 years of experience in the world of IT. As soon as Netscape became available he started to do what already at that time was called web design and has carried on ever since. Two decades ago he started writing for several online publications, some well, some lesser known. You can meet him over on Google+.


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