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Fine Arts Friday: Free stuff!

The Getty Publications is offering over 250 art volumes as free downloads. A myriad of topics are covered, from Pieter de Hooch to Ancient Gems and Finger Rings.

That got me thinking about other fine arts resources available for free. I feel rather strongly that while information may want to be free and whatnot, violating copyright is both tacky and illegal. But following copyright laws, especially for educators who have some additional leeway when it comes to fair use laws, is tricky.

What’s easier than trying to figure out how and if you can use a particular copy of artwork? Finding stuff free, like the Getty Publications. So I thought I’d compile what I have, and you can share your resources, too.  Please note, I’m listing these sources for educational and personal use only. If you tried, say, to publish and sell the Getty publications, you’d likely run into some costly issues.

Ahem. The free stuff:

Open Culture, the website that informs us of the Getty Publications is a good place to start. They list free audio books, free movies, and a bunch of free educational links, among other things.

For our art, I mostly use Wikipedia. They tend to have nice, big images that are great for displaying on our television for picture study. I prefer Wikipedia to other sources because the quality is usually so much better than even art museums’ images. For example, our next Bierstadt is Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie. Click the image to go to a much larger, glorious rendering. Glorious, I tell you!

Storm in the Rocky Mountains

You can also find digital reproductions of art on museum websites. Obviously. The Smithsonian also allows their material to be used for “personal, educational, or non-commercial use,” but not everything on their website is their property, so note copyright restrictions on particular works. Most museums allow for similar use, see for example #3 in the Terms and Conditions from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Note they there are restrictions on fair use and educational use. They also want you to cite the source, so be sure to tell your children where you got it while you’re doing your picture study!

If you aren’t sure what “personal, educational, or non-commercial use” means, review the homeschool copyright information. If you aren’t a homeschooler, I’m sorry, but you’re on your own.  (Just kidding, you’ll find that information helpful for you, as well.)

Poetry published before 1923 is in the public domain, and a simple search will most likely turn up what you need. Poets.org and The Poetry Foundation are just a couple of sites that have easy access to free poetry. You can also find free volumes for Kindle on Amazon. For more modern poetry, if you can’t find it online, there’s always the library. Although that’s only free if you turn in your books on time. In related news, we expect the city to announce groundbreaking on the new wing of our local library paid entirely with our fines any day.

The British Library has uploaded a million images of 17th- to 19th-century pictures from books. Bartleby, Archive.org, and Project Gutenberg also offer free books and other documents.  Librivox has audio books read by volunteers from books that are in the public domain.  And of course, there are tons of free kindle versions of classics on Amazon.

When it comes to music, my go-to source is Youtube. Orchestras often post their performances, and when it comes to hymns and folk songs, everyone has a version they want to share with the world. However, video isn’t always the best medium for the occasion, and there are other sources for music, too.

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Your best bet for folk song is just to search for the lyrics because there are a multitude of sites dedicated to various types of folk songs. However, here are a few online libraries with traditional recordings:

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library has an archive of tens of thousands of English folk songs.
The Library of Congress American Folklife Center has several recordings as well as images and other information.
The Association for Cultural Equity has a bunch of traditional music recordings from all over the world.

And our current folk song playlist. We’re adding to it monthly.


My absolute favorite source for hymns is the Timeless Truths online library because it offers sheet music in addition to lyrics. Of course, this doesn’t apply to modern hymns (after 1923) because they are still copyrighted. Cyberhymnal is another site that sometimes has scores, although I haven’t found it to be as user-friendly. Hymnary is a neat site because you can enter a bible verse and pull up hymns that go with that scripture. Although, sometimes I wonder about the connection.

Our current hymn playlist:



And finally, also not specifically art, but definitely appropriate for this particular post, Ambleside Online has the Charlotte Mason Series available to read online. They’ve formatted each book as an epub but if that doesn’t work on your e-reader, you can use Calibre to render the proper format. Calibre is a great tool for turning all types of ebooks–pdfs and the like, into readable formats for whatever e-reader you have.

So that’s my stash. Do you have any free sources of art, music, books, or what have you?

2 responses to “Fine Arts Friday: Free stuff!”

  1. Dana Wilson Avatar

    Wow! All of those free virtual books of sumptuous art at the Getty! What a great find and thanks so much for passing it on so others could benefit.


    1. April Avatar

      Isn’t that a treasure? Happy to pass on my discoveries, after all, someone passed it on to me!

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