Photographs: Research & Ordering

Subjects: How-To Guides
Tags: arts, how-to, photos


Ole Aarseth posed with camera and equipment, studio portrait, 1901-1902.

The photographs at the Minnesota Historical Society visually represent Minnesotans, their lives, landscapes, leisure and occupations from the pre-territorial period to the present.  With over 200,000 individual photographs to search in Collections Online, and thousands more available as photograph, manuscript, and government records collections, finding the right photo can be a bit overwhelming.  

While many of the photographs--particularly those in Collections Online and in some finding aids--are viewable online, others can only be seen in the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center.

This guide provides hints for finding the perfect photo, how to use the ordering system, and how to obtain permission to use images publicly.  

  • Searching for Photos Online: Using our Research Materials Search and its powerful filters to find the images you want
  • Ordering Copies: How to order digital or print copies of images
  • Other Ways to Find Photos: Locate images in photo albums and collections, manuscript collections, State Archives, and published items
  • Using Images as Primary Sources: Strengths and weaknesses of photos as research sources, advice on how to "read" historic photos, and ways to properly cite images 
  • Permissions & Licensing: Types of use, standard Conditions of Use, use fees, and other information for those wanting to use images in books, broadcasts, exhibits, and other ways
  • Help & More: How to get help and other collections with historic Minnesota images.  

Related Research Guides & Webpages

Guide Author

Jenny McElroy
Reference Librarian

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Currently open by appointment only.