Some government and educational institutions have online databases for viewing, purchasing, and/or downloading image files. You can find historic documents, maps, paintings and much more in these digital collections. Most of the files are high enough quality for creating digital fine art prints. The files in these collections are usually raw conservation scans of artifacts scanned actual size at 300dpi and are not print ready. This gives you the ability to create a print at least the actual size of the original artifact.
You can browse these databases online. Once you find the file you like you must check to see if it has a current copyright. If it does not, then you must find out if you can purchase or download the full size file. These online databases usually include all the information you need to figure out original size and if an image you want has a current copyright. If there is a current copyright you more than likely will never be given the privilege to download the actual size scan. This is done to protect people from impeding on a current copyright. If it does not have a current copyright then it is available for you to use.
Files downloaded from any collection need varying degrees of file preparation before they are ready for printing. None of the files are ready for printing as is. The files you download are just raw scans that need color correction, cleanup, retouch, digital restoration and proofing. The original purpose of these files is for research/education, not for creating digital fine art prints.
We have had an influx of this kind of work lately and we just wanted to share it so more people know these databases exist. The files in these databases create incredible prints if prepared correctly. When you find the file you want to print we can help you assess copyright if you are unsure. We need to be 100% sure a copyright does not exist for the image you want to print before we are willing to create prints for you.
We take copyright very seriously at Old Town Editions. Most of the artifacts and paintings we normally reproduce have current copyrights. This means that only the owner of the copyright is able to order prints. If you want to order prints of any artist or photographer that we work with you must contact them directly to place an order.