Online resources for natural science illustration

Online resources for natural science illustration

Are you stuck at home due to COVID restrictions or other reasons? I am. I'm just itching to be able to freely visit museum collections, libraries, agricultural fairs and zoos again for natural science art reference. In the meantime, I'm delighted to have discovered a number of free online resources I can use.

Here are three of my favourite online resources and references for natural science illustration:

Smithsonian Open Access

Nautilus Pompilius from Smithsonian Open Access Collection

The Smithsonian institute has made over 3 million of their 2D and 3D digital resources publicly available. These are stored on a searchable database. They promise there are many more to come. All of the Smithsonian Open Access Images are completely free to use, without the need for any request or credit, for any purpose. This collection includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

Natural History Museum (UK) Collection

The Natural History Museum has created a searchable catalogue of their museum collections. These collections are organized in a very intuitive way and easy to search. Many entries include useful photographs as well as other important information. These collections are free for the public to view.. Each entry includes instructions for citations.

USDA Pomological Watercolour Collection
Citrus arauntifolia by Ellen Isham Schutt, 1911 - from USDA Pomological Watercolour Collection

Between 1886 and 1942, the USDA commissioned botanical illustrations of fruit. The USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection documents fruit and nut varieties developed by growers or introduced by USDA plant explorers around the turn of the 20th century. Botanically accurate paintings were used in USDA bulletins, yearbooks, and other series distributed to growers and gardeners across America. Since the copyright has expired on these images, the USDA has made them all available to the public. The USDA pomological study database includes 7,584 watercolor paintings, lithographs and line drawings, including 3,807 images of apples. These images are created by 21 different artists.


Do you have favourite online references for your natural science illustrations? I'd love to hear about them!

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