By Miranda Bennett, Director of Shared Collections at CDL

When preparing slides for a presentation, where do you go to find relevant, attention-getting, thought-provoking images to illustrate your words? You could search the Creative Commons database, experiment with an AI image generator like DALL-E or Midjourney, or take your own photos or make your own digital images. Another option, which you may not have considered, is HathiTrust. With its millions of digitized texts, many of which are in the public domain, it is filled with fascinating visual content that can enliven your presentation while building appreciation for the value of this community resource.

Of course, most of the content in HathiTrust is textual, and its search tools are based on the input and output of words. Finding images can be more challenging. The search strategies below provide an opportunity to explore the HathiTrust Digital Library corpus in a new way, and the results can be interesting and delightful.

A few tips for finding HathiTrust images and using them in presentations:

  • Advanced Catalog Search is a good option for targeting your search effectively and avoiding an overwhelming results list. Select “All Fields” or “Title” and enter keywords related to your presentation topic or the particular idea you want to illustrate. Check the box for “Full View Only” (under Additional Search Options) to limit results to public domain or openly licensed content.
  • To increase your odds of finding images, you can add “illustrat*” as a Title field term (with Boolean operator AND). This technique is far from perfect (it does, of course, exclude many illustrated works, and will likely include quite a few with titles that use “illustrated” or “illustrations” metaphorically), but it can generate a more manageable results list.
  • To make the results more locally relevant, you may want to add “California” (or your preferred state) as a “Subject” search term. Within a results list, you can also use the “Original Location” filter to identify items from particular libraries (perhaps, for instance, University of California).
  • To scan items from the results list for images, use “Full View” to access the reader, then select “Thumbnails” as the VIEW option.
  • When you find pages with images that look promising, select them by checking their boxes, then download those pages. If you choose JPEG format, you can use an image editor to crop the page and isolate the image you want to use; if you choose PDF, you can perform a similar process in Adobe.
  • Once you have the image files, you can add them to presentation slides as you would any other images. If they are from public domain items, there is no legal requirement to cite the source in your presentation, but citation is still recommended; if they are from CC-licensed items, they  generally require attribution.

From Roads, used to illustrate “challenges”

When selecting images for presentations, you may want to take them all from a single source, since this approach can bring consistency to your slides. For the presentation I gave as a candidate for the Director of Shared Collections position at CDL, for instance, I used photos from a 1940 United States federal government document called Roads, by Charles M. Wiltse. These images served as metaphors for concepts such as collaboration, complexity, challenge, and change over time.

From Roads, used to illustrate “teamwork/collaboration”

You may also bring thematic consistency to your presentation images by finding pictures from a noteworthy event, such as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. This global extravaganza, held in San Francisco in 1915, generated many beautiful souvenir publications, and HathiTrust boasts over 150 full-view items with the subject “Panama-Pacific International Exposition.” Browsing their pages, you will find illustrations of monumental buildings, dramatic views, milling crowds, and impressive feats of engineering and construction, many of which could enliven slide decks on a variety of topics.

From The great exposition: the Panama Pacific International Exposition illustrated with two sumptuous colored panoramas and 84 engravings of its principal scenes and features, used to illustrate list of activities “on the horizon”

As you identify promising sources for presentation images, you may want to set up one or more personal collections, an easy way to save lists of titles to access later. When you are logged in and viewing an item, the “Collections” option on the left sidebar allows you to add it to a collection you’ve created. A collection may be private, accessible only to you, or public, available to all HathiTrust users. Examples of public collections that I’ve created, which could be useful sources for presentations, are California images and Money images.

Apart from the potential to make your presentations more interesting, exploring HathiTrust on a quest for eye-catching images is a great way to increase your familiarity with the content of the HathiTrust Digital Library, build your skills in the search interface, and marvel at the scope of human creativity, accomplishment, and idiosyncrasy preserved and made accessible by this vital community resource. 

Los Angeles parking map, from Business districts, used as example of something of great value

Los Angeles parking map, from Business districts, used as example of something of great value