An old proverb states that “the eyes are the windows into the soul.” A genealogy corollary is that “a photo is a window into the lives of your ancestors.”
I love old photos, whether they are portraits of my ancestors or historical photos for the period when they lived. And it is important to a complete research that one attempts to understand the environment that surrounds our ancestors’ lives if one wants to truly appreciate what they went through.
So where can they be found? Obviously the best resource is our own photo albums and those that our relatives possess. But what about other resources? Many archives, historical societies, libraries and genealogical societies have collections of old photos. And in the past few years there has been a massive movement towards making these historical photo collections available online. Some have search capabilities where you can actually put in a surname or a location, name of a building or historical event and find what is available.
For the District of Columbia what collections are available for you to browse and/or search online? Here is a list of sites to start with. Please feel free to add in the comments other online resources that you might be aware of in the state.
Please be aware that there may be very strict rules regarding downloading or other use of the images that you may find. Copyright and other legal protections may be in force. Make sure that you read the limitations of use for any image that you find in these collections and wish to download and/or copy. It is your responsibility to adhere to the rules for all of these collections.
Please note that links to these sites may change in the future. The author (me) will not be constantly checking and updating these links, so if you find a broken link, please use your favorite search engine to locate the new link.
(Updated December, 2020; recently added links are in BOLD)
- American University History Photographs
- Anacostia Community Museum Photo Collections
- Bygone Brookland Photos and Portraits
- Catholic University of America Digital Collections
- DC GenWeb Photos
- DC Past
- DC Public Library Commons – Photos
- DDOT Historic Image Collections
- Digital DC
- Discover DC History Photos
- District of Columbia Ancient Faces
- District of Columbia Dead Fred
- District of Columbia Old Family Photos
- District of Columbia, DP.LA Photos
- District of Columbia, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives
- Foggy Bottom Photographs
- Gallaudet University Historical Panorama Collection
- Gallaudet University Historical Photograph Collection
- Gallaudet University Historical Slide Collection
- Gallaudet University Photograph Album Collection
- Georgetown University Photograph Selections
- Ghosts of DC
- Glover Park Neighborhood Images
- GWU Photographs, 1956 – 1962
- Hidden Washington DC Photos
- Historic Washington DC Buildings
- Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
- Howard University Prints and Photographs Collection
- Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington – Washington
- Juniper Gallery – DC Photos
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs – District of Columbia
- Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum
- National Archives – Digital Photograph Collections
- National Institute of Standards and Technology Historic Images
- National Museum of American Jewish Military History – Washington
- National Woman’s Party – Washington
- Old DC Images
- Smithsonian Images
- Streets of Washington Photos
- University of the District of Columbia Digital Archives Collection
- US Navy Memorial – Washington
- Washington DC Activism Photos
- Washington DC Historic Photos
- Washington DC Miscellaneous Photographs
- Washington DC Vintage Photos
- Washington Vintage Photos
- Washingtoniana Image Galleries
- Willard Ross DC Postcard Collection
- Window to Washington
- Women’s History and Resource Center – Washington
- Woodrow Wilson High School PTSO – Washington
For historical photos from other states as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!
For other Free District of Columbia Links, click on the category of interest: