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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2001

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Science & Technology Resources on the Internet

What You See Is What You Get: Science Images on the Web

Kristine M. Alpi
Information Services Librarian
Samuel J. Wood Library
Weill Medical College of Cornell University


A selection of image-rich web sites in a variety of scientific disciplines is offered as a starting point for reference questions and educational programs. Tools for keeping up with new image resources are introduced. This review does not cover searching general World Wide Web sites or general commercial image databases for science images.


Teaching images are in high demand by science faculty. Felder (1993) emphasized the need for extensive use of sketches, plots, schematics, vector diagrams, computer graphics, and physical demonstrations to motivate student interest in science. Stebley (1998) reported on how focus groups of art educators perceived using digital images for teaching. Some barriers included copyright issues, cost of acquiring images, tools to manage images and technical support/training. Many universities now provide training on how to access and manipulate public domain images for educational purposes. Supporting pages of image links are available -- three examples from the health science domain are {Duke University Medical Center}, {University of Nebraska Medical Center} and the author's institution, {Weill Medical College of Cornell University}.

Users of images found on these web pages should be mindful of copyright issues. Look for links to statements concerning the use of images and how to obtain permission for other uses. Generally, most sites allow free use for personal or educational purposes but require a release from the copyright holder for commercial use of the images.

The selected web sites here are organized by broad scientific discipline, but there is a great deal of overlap due to the interdisciplinary nature of the topics and organizations. Most of these sites have been profiled in one of the following resources.


Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery - {}
A small collection of quality color images that can be searched or browsed in broad categories, such as plants, animals, crops, insect and field research.

USDA Online Photo Center - {}
A digital collection of over 20,000 high-quality images on topics from Americana to Transportation while covering the Animals, Crops and Nutrition areas one would expect. Each topic button leads to sub-categories of images. Click on the thumbnails to see larger images with caption material.

For more agricultural image sites, search the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) web site for "images."

Astronomy and Aeronautics

Celebrating the Evolution of Flight - {}
This site from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics presents an image gallery and a detailed timeline of the history of flight. Notable people in the history of flight and the evolution of helicopter flight are also featured.

Great Images in NASA (GRIN) -
This NASA site catalogs over 1,000 high-quality photos of space and its exploration. Browsed by subject or center or keyword-search. The images are offered as thumbnails with three resolution options and text descriptions. NASA has many other image sites, including NASA Image eXchange and the {NASA Multimedia Gallery}.


Big Picture Book of Viruses - {}
The Big Picture Book of Viruses is intended to serve as both a catalog of virus pictures on the Internet and as an educational resource. Find viruses by name, structure/genome, host and disease that the virus causes.

BIODIDAC: A bank of digital resources for teaching biology -
This excellent University of Ottawa database offers many ways to access more than 5,000 images. Organismal Biology, Human Biology and Histology appear on the main page as broad categories, but select the Browse feature to focus on Eubacteria, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, Animalia, Human Biology or Histology. The search engine allows you to specify the taxon or use keywords. Limiting to type of image (B/W diagrams, color diagrams, photos, video clips, etc.) is another search option. Some of the image descriptions are only available in French. The BIODIDAC Project Description provides details about the database's coverage.

Botanical Society of America Online Image Collection -
Browse some 800 images in fourteen collections ranging from Carnivorous Plants to Xylem Development, or search by keywords. Images are provided in three resolutions: thumbnail, medium and high resolution.

CELLS Alive! -
The index, an alphabetical keyword list of the web site's contents, is available. Browse the contents for areas such as Cell Structure & Function, Microbes, the Immune System, and Microscopy. Search cell or microscopy terms to see images, animations or videos of cellular processes.

Vascular Plant Image Gallery -
The Texas A&M University Bioinformatics Working Group developed this site. Browse by alphabetical family listings and select species images from the family submenus. A string search query is also available. The 11,000+ thumbnail images have descriptions with the name and where the plant was located, and some offer a zoom option for more detail.

For more botany image sites see the July 2000 Internet Resources column of College & Research Libraries News [available online at {}].


Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC): Images Collection - {}
Over 2,000 of the most noteworthy images in the Royal Society's collection have been digitized and are searchable from the Library's catalog. For searching the digitized images only, click on the Images only pull-down and choose "Yes." Then use the "Subject" field for the primary search term. RSC holds the copyright and has marked through the images with a black copyright statement.

Simple, Common, and Interesting Molecules - {}
Looking for some basic and useful molecules for introducing chemical visualization? Vitamins, minerals and macromolecules are just a few of the images available. Common Molecules is partially funded as part of the {ChemViz project.}

Computer Science and Mathematics

The Computer Museum History Center- Timeline of Computer History - {}
This timeline is accompanied by black and white and color photos of the people and machines behind the computer revolution. Browse by year or use the site search engine. The History Center will be digitizing its Media (Audio/Digital/Film/Photo/Video) collection in the future. Check out the images accompanying Current Exhibits as well

Gallery of Mathematical Images- Loughborough University - {}
This site offers interesting explorations of mathematical formulas and computer programming. Most recent update appears to be 1996.

Earth Science and Geology

U.S. Geological Survey: Picturing Science - {}
Online science tours on topics such as Landscapes, Waterways, Wildlife, to Scientists of the Earth, require Shockwave to view. Select "More information about each image" to visit the pictures and their descriptive captions as image files.

National Archive of Geological Photographs - {}
Provided by the British Geological Survey, this site contains a database of more than 6,000 digitized images drawn from the National Archive of Geological Photographs (NAGP). The archive may be searched by keyword, advanced search, or browsed via galleries. Images are accompanied by descriptions of varying length.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: NOAA Photo Library -
Over 16,000 images on a broad spectrum of topics from weather and space, shores and coastal seas, and thousands of marine species images ranging from the great whales to the most minute plankton. Browse individual albums from the Collections page, browse the catalogs of images, or search the collection by keyword.

Visible Earth -
This is another NASA collection of images and animations of Earth's atmosphere, biosphere, land surface and oceans. According to the Scout Report, the database holds over 1,600 records and may be searched by keyword or advanced search options or browsed by category and topic. The thumbnail-sized image links to a several-paragraph description and the full-size images.

Health Sciences and Medicine

Bristol Biomedical Images Archive - University of Bristol, UK - {}
A collection of medical, dental and veterinary images for use in teaching. The archive includes a search engine with simple and more complex options. For full access to the BioMed image collections, registration is required. Registration requires a working Internet e-mail address in order to receive a password for access to the system. Without a password, only smaller thumbnail images are accessible.

Public Health Image Library (PHIL) -
"Peoples, places, science" -- is the tag line summarizing the content of PHIL, an image database from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. This site offers mainly public domain resources in still images, image sets, and multimedia files on all aspects of public health, especially international efforts in infectious disease and environmental health.

The Visible Human Project® -
The Project has produced well-known male and female data sets, consisting of transverse CT, MR and cryosection images, that can be licensed. To view the data online, visit one of the resources linked under "Applications for viewing images" or "Sources of images and animations." The Cross Sectional Anatomy viewer from Loyola University and the Visible Human Male and Female browsers from the University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center (the contractors that produced the data set) provide easy access to the images. AnatLine, a prototype anatomical image database and an online browser being developed by the National Library of Medicine, will be useful in the future.

History of Science

Epact: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe -
A group of four Italian, Dutch, and British museums, Epact is a digital catalog of over 500 scientific and technical instruments made before 1600. Start from the Handlist, a simple list of all the items in the collection, and proceed to catalog entries with pictures and descriptive text. The search feature provides a keyword box. Instrument and maker names appear in drop down menus.

Science Service Historical Image Collection - {}
Images and original captions of twentieth-century scientific research as they appeared in period publications comprise this collection. There are many ways to access the images: Browse the Historical Image Collection, Choose a Subject, Search the Image Collection. Be sure to read the document on How to use the Image Collection.

Images from the History of Medicine - {}
See the review of Images from the History of Medicine in the ISTL History of Science Webliography.


American Physical Society: A Century of Physics -
Browse the timeline, a list of events, or search this site to view images of developments in physics from 1896 to 2000. Information about art and culture of the time is also available.

Berkeley Lab On-line Photo Archive - {}
The Berkeley Lab archive contains images of accelerators, particle detection, famous people, research from 1930 to the present, and some facilities. Search the site using the Glimpse search engine or browse the images that are grouped into hierarchical subject subcollections to provide smaller groups of images to view.


Amazing Picture Machine: North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium - {ttp://}
This site was designed for elementary school educators and offers planned lessons on a variety of topics. Search the Picture Machine using exact matches or variant matching; results link out to the sites on which the images are hosted.

Moving Image Gateway (MIG) -
This new metasite from the British Universities Film & Video Council indexes over 400 sites (with plans to add another 600) that "relate to moving images and sound and their use in higher and further education." The database may be searched by keyword or browsed by topic under categories such as: Science & Technology and Bio-Medical. Site listings include a one-paragraph description and a link.


Felder, R. 1993. Reaching the second tier: learning and teaching styles in college science education. Journal of College Science Teaching 23(5), 286-290. [Online.] Available: {}. [July 15, 2001.]

Stebley, L. 1998. Faculty perspectives on teaching with digital images. In The Cost of Digital Image Distribution: The Social and Economic Implications of the Production, Distribution, and Usage of Image Data (ed. by H. Besser & R. Yamashita). [Online.] Available: {}. [July 15, 2001.]

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