Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library

U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library – https://library.usgs.gov/photo/#/

Representative Questions This Resource Can Answer:

  • What did Mount Saint Helens look like in 1964 and in 1984?
  • What does the landscape look like in Joshua Tree National Park?
  • What did Tokyo look like after its 1923 earthquake?


This photo library contains 30,000 photographs from 1868 to the present. The library can be searched by keyword or by browsing the following topics:

  • Earthquakes
  • Mines, Mills, Quarries
  • Mount St. Helens
  • National Parks
  • Photographers
  • Pioneer Photographers
  • Portrait Collection

Each topic brings up subtopics. The earthquake section is divided up by names of large quakes, such as San Fernando in 1971 or Yemen 1982. The Portraits collection might be useful for seeing clothing styles for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Aside from being a source to add realistic settings to your stories, this library can be used to illustrate your book, story or website. As stated by the terms of service at https://library.usgs.gov/photo/#/about, all of photos in the USGS library are public domain and be used without permission or credit. USGS would appreciate a credit to the photo library.


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