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 state of Iowa, 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, 2018; recently added links are in BOLD)
- African American Museum of Iowa - Cedar Rapids
- Ames Historical Society Photo Archives
- Ames Public Library - Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive
- Audubon County Photo Index
- Brucemore (National Trust) - Cedar Rapids
- Buchanan County Photos
- Carroll County Photos
- Council Bluffs Historic Photos
- Des Moine Photo Collections
- Drake Heritage Collections
- Fullhart/Carnegie Charitable Trust - Perry
- Greene County Photos
- History Center - Linn County Historical Society - Cedar Rapids
- Images of Des Moines
- Iowa City Digital History
- Iowa City Press Citizen Collection
- Iowa City Then and Now
- Iowa Department of Transportation's Historic Archives Digital Collections
- Iowa Digital Library Flickr Photo Albums
- Iowa Digital Library - Photographs
- Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
- Iowa Jewish Historical Society - Des Moines
- Iowa Pathways - Photo Artifacts
- Iowa State University Photo Collection
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
- Linn County Echoes of the Past
- Linn County Photos
- Mahaska County Historical Society Photo Collection
- National Archives - Digital Photograph Collections
- National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium - Dubuque
- Page County Photos
- Photographs of Iowa County
- Poweshiek History Preservation Project
- Scott County Photos
- Smithsonian Images
- State Historical Society of Iowa Library - Photo Collections
- Taylor County Photo Index
- The Edgewood Museum - Edgewood
- Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive
- Williamsburg Iowa Sesquicentennial
- Worth County Photos
For historic photos from other states as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.
Good luck and Happy Hunting!