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Explore resources in the public domain

Peter Paul Rubens painting, meeting of soldiers and peasants

Public domain photograph of Peter Paul Rubens' painting, available through the Getty Open Content Program

The Public Domain Review Logo of man on wooden horse with wheels

Public Domain Review Logo, by Jonathan Gray.

The impact of an item entering the public domain or being made open access varies tremendously by the nature of the item and audience. Some users might find the perfect resource for their project, and others might find the same resource completely useless. For researchers wishing to work with public domain materials, or just browse them and see what others have done for inspiration, the Public Domain Review is a welcome resource.

Founded in 2011, the Public Domain Review is a curated collection of materials in the public domain and essays about those materials. Items can be browsed by medium (images, books, film, and audio), time, tags, and source in the Collections section. Each category is then further broken down, usually by time, style, genre, content, type, and rights allowing for narrower results but still making it easy to browse for materials of interest.

In addition to materials themselves, every two weeks the site publishes a long-form essay discussing a public domain work or works. These are available in the Essays section and offer additional context and present reflections regarding public domain works. Contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds, and submissions are ideally between 1,500–2,500 words and can be relatively informal.

The site also has a whimsical side that includes animated GIFs made from public domain materials and caption competitions. Overall, the Public Domain Review provides a multitude of windows into materials that are in the public domain, and how they can be used for both scholarship and more lighthearted purposes.

For authors, it is important to remember that placing an item on our own institutional repository, ISU ReD, does not put it in the public domain. It merely makes it open access, removing some possible barriers to access and discovery but with the author retaining their copyright. If you have questions or wish to discuss this further, for current or already published research, please contact isured@IllinoisState.edu.

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