Rights and Reproduction


The Smithsonian Institution Archives permits the use of digital and photographic reproductions of its collection materials according to applicable rights and restrictions. Individuals or organizations that would like to obtain a reproduction must first obtain permission from the Archives unless otherwise indicated on this website.

Allowable Uses

We permit and encourage personal and educational use for unrestricted collection documents, images, audio, and video. High quality or high-resolution versions are available on request, for these purposes, with associated fees for duplication and delivery, and in some cases, digitization when the item hasn’t been previously digitized. Note that visitors can use collections already available online for personal and educational use without special permission from the Archives (Visit the Smithsonian Institution Archives Collections Search to see digitized collections to date).  If you’d like, the Archives would like to hear how our collections have helped in your research and projects, so please contact us to let us know.

Use of the Archives’ images, audio, and video materials for publication, commercial use, or distribution requires written permission and licensing from the Archives. Licensing for some materials may also require approval of the Smithsonian Office of Contracting or Office of Product Development and Licensing. Licensing fees apply in addition to any digitization, duplication, and delivery fees. Waivers for licensing fees for non-profit and scholarly projects may be granted at the Archives’ discretion. To request licensing authorization, email a completed license agreement request to photos@si.edu.

Use of the Archives’ restricted images, audio, and video collections material requires special written authorization from the Archives and may also require authorization from other parties depending on the material.

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Copyright, Rights, and Restrictions

The Archives’ collections are obtained from many sources and are intended primarily for research and educational purposes. Certain works may be protected by copyright, trademark, or related interests not governed by the Smithsonian Institution. Permission for use will be granted only to the extent of the Smithsonian Institution's ownership of the rights relating to your particular interest. The responsibility for ascertaining whether any additional rights exist, and for obtaining all necessary permissions, remains with the researcher. See the Smithsonian Institution’s Terms of Use and Copyright Policies for more information.

The Archives also serves as the physical custodian to photographic material owned by some other Smithsonian curatorial units. Researchers are responsible for working with the owning curatorial units to secure permission for the use of that material. Separate fees may be assessed by the owning curatorial unit and/or the Archives.

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Copyright Resources

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No Known Copyright Restrictions

The phrase “no known copyright restriction” means that the Smithsonian has determined, to the best of its ability based on available information, that the content is unlikely to be protected by copyright interests and, in all likelihood, is in the public domain. However, copyright is often difficult to determine with certainty, so the phrase is intended to say that the Smithsonian is unaware of any copyright restriction, but such restrictions may still exist. In addition, even if the content is unrestricted from a copyright standpoint, there may be other considerations that would limit your use, such as rights of privacy or publicity of the individuals featured in the images, or contractual restrictions.

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Proper Citations and Credit

The Archives requires proper credit, and reproduction permissions are contingent upon an agreement to supply appropriate credit lines. Of special concern for the Archives is facilitating the identification or retrieval of the Archives’ collection items that are reproduced, since publication/broadcast may create further demand for reproduction. Simply using "Smithsonian Institution" as a credit line is inadequate for this purpose—“Smithsonian Institution Archives” must be credited. Also, the Smithsonian Institution Archives Record Unit, Accession Number, or Image ID should always be used in credit lines. Finally, in cases where collection items are reproduced online, the Archives requests a link back to its website (http://siarchives.si.edu) if possible.

Please use the following credit line:

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image #.


Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit/Accession # and/or Collection Title
Negative # or Film/Audio/Video Title

Proper credit and citation should also be used when referencing copies of photographic collection material owned by other Smithsonian units but acquired through the Archives. Proper credit lines will be provided on completed, countersigned permissions forms that will be emailed to you upon the completion of an image permission request. Consult with the owning curatorial unit for their citation requirements.

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Placing a Request

To request a copy of an image or audiovisual material, complete the reference request form. If you are additionally requesting licensing, mention that in your reference request and email the licensing request to osiaref@si.edu.

Requesting from:

Smithsonian Institution Archives Collections Image: Complete an online reference request
** If applicable, a licensing request form is also required
Audiovisual: Complete an online reference request and the supplemental form required for audiovisual materials.
Oral and video histories: Complete an online reference request and the supplemental form for oral or video histories.
An image from the Archives’ Smithsonian Photographic Services collection.
Email an order form to photos@si.edu or call 202.633.1933. 

Applicable fees include reproduction, delivery, and potentially an Archives’ licensing fee or a licensing fee to the other Smithsonian curatorial unit that holds copyright.

If you are interested in reproducing an image from another Smithsonian division, first consult the Smithsonian Collections Search Center, which can help determine where an image resides. Once the location of the image is established, consult the Smithsonian’s Rights, Restrictions, and Security Contacts to determine who to contact at each Smithsonian division regarding Rights and Reproductions.

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A Note about A/V Reproductions

Copies of audiovisual material and microfilm may be necessary to complete your request. When this is the case, reproduction services will be contracted with a commercial vendor or laboratory selected by the Archives. The researcher must bear the cost of this service, including generation of copy masters if needed. All copies of Archives material remain the property of the Archives.

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