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Make Your Own Postcard and Other Ways to Play with Free-to-Use Images

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This is a guest post by Fanny Terrones, intern in the Young Readers Center from January to September 2020. To learn more about internships and volunteer opportunities in the Young Readers Center, visit our program page.

The Free to Use and Reuse page on the Library of Congress website features photos and original works that are in the public domain, have no known copyright, or are cleared by the copyright owner for public use. This means that all the items you find in these sets are completely free to use, in any way you wish. There are lots of topics to explore, including images of horses, maps, cars, cats, dogs, bicycles, baseball cards, travel posters, and more.

Copyright is a tool to protect your creative work and intellectual property. The U.S. Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress, and its main goal is to promote creativity and free expression.  If you write down, record, or make an original creative work, you become a copyright holder, and registering for copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office grants you additional protection for your creative work. Works that are not copyrighted over time become available for public use. Learn more about the Copyright Office by watching this 5-minute video.


An activity idea I had is to print a photo and transform it into a postcard that can be sent to family or friends whom you haven’t been able to see during this pandemic.

The Ice Cream Girl, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection

How to make your own postcard from free-to-use photos:

  1. Choose your favorite photo in the Library of Congress Free to Use and Reuse Sets page. For example, if your loved one loves ice cream, you can choose from a collection of ice-cream themed works. Or, if your family is full of readers, select a classic children’s book cover.
  2. Print your selected photo into a postcard online or your local printing store, or put it into an email.
  3. Write a message to a friend or loved one on the back of your new postcard:
    “Dear Grandma, I love you more than ice cream!”
  4. Stamp, address, and send.
  5. Brighten someone’s day!

The possibilities of using the Free to Use and Reuse sets are endless! Show us your postcards, or share your own creations based on these images. What ideas will you have next?

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