updated 3/2/2005 10:42:37 PM ET 2005-03-03T03:42:37

The New York Public Library is putting hundreds of thousands of its images online, allowing free personal downloads of material including maps, Civil War photos and illuminated medieval manuscripts.

The NYPL Digital Gallery will have 250,000 images available beginning Thursday, and the collection will grow to 500,000 images over the next several months, library officials announced Wednesday. The site will be available online at http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/ .

Many of the images are unique to the library, library President Paul LeClerc said.

The images should get wide use, whether by "a historian studying the Revolutionary War, a scenic designer researching old New York neighborhoods or a fashion designer looking for inspiration in vintage clothing," said David Ferriero, the library's Andrew W. Mellon director and chief executive of the research libraries.

The materials can be downloaded free for personal use. Use of the images for publication or in film, television or the Internet can be arranged through the library's Permissions Department.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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