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Searching and Sleuthing: Search Tools

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Web Searching, Sleuthing and Sifting
Web Searching, Sleuthing and Sifting

Lesson Five:
Locating Images: Photos, Pictures & Graphics

Why is it so hard to find the pictures I want?

Well, when we consider how we actually look for images on the web, the reason why it is hard to find them quickly becomes apparent. When searching for pictures on the web, we use keywords which we hope will coincide with descriptive terms or file names which have been somehow "added" to the images. If these terms have not been applied or added to a record describing the image, we cannot find them. In other words, search engines look for pictures based on indexed terms, usually not on any formal attributes or interior elements such as "black" or "forest" (unless, of course, these terms are attached or accompany the image).

Most pictures have file names that are rather cryptic such as blufoot.jpg or ampag.gif. When you conduct a search for images, often you are in fact looking for file extensions and a keyword such as:

blue and .gif
cat and .jpg

If your keywords are not in the filename (blue.gif or cat.jpg) you may not be able to find what you need. Sometimes descriptive terms are applied to images to assist folks looking for them and in some cases, the images may be cataloged and/or classified, all making our searches easier.

How can I find pictures or photographs on the web?

You can search for images by using one of the "major" search engines, a specialized utility or by locating sites which are likely to contain a lot of images or links to images (such as museums or art galleries).

Search engines almost always identify images by filename extension (such as .jpg or .gif) and by html "attributes" (such as the "ALT" tag which loads before or instead of an image, the "IMG SRC" tag (meaning imbedded image) or the "HREF" tag or field (meaning hypertext reference)). They combine the idea or identification of an "image" with your other keywords which it locates in various fields of the web document (which fields or areas depends on the search utility you are using). Look for the image (Hotbot) or picture (Lycos) and similar limit fields in the "major" search engines.

Search utilities with databases of cataloged images are the most reliable way to search for images. Humans assign descriptive terms of picture elements, style, content and subject. Pictures containing your search terms are retrieved based on the indexed terms. This method is extremely labor intensive and time consuming; it is also very expensive which is why you often have to pay to search indexed image banks.

Specialized sites often have images arranged by categories with a variable amount of accompanying data.

Where to go to search for images

 Searching by file extension or html attributes

  • Altavista

  • (
  • Hotbot

  • (
  • Lycos

  • (
  • WebSEEk

  • (

Cataloged and/or Classified Images

Image Banks

  • American Memory -- Library of Congress

  • (
    Photographs, Prints & Drawings searchable by keyword.
  • Art Images for College Teaching

  • (
    "AICT is a royalty-free image exchange resource for the educational community." Features images organized by time periods (Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, 18th-20th centuries and Non-Western.
  • Art Image Browser: Home Page

  • (
    A collection of images of art, architectural and museum objects from the University of Michigan History of Art Department, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, the University of Michigan Museum of Art and Chicano Murals located in Los Angeles.
  • ArtServe -- The Australian National University

  • (
    Art history database consisting of nearly 80 000 images of art and architecture.

Art Resources/Museums
 Last updated: April 2, 1999

Copyright © 1998-99,  Angela Elkordy, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Electronic Resources, The Sage Colleges,


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