Using Wikimedia Commons to Locate Higher Resolution Scans

As digitization standards have evolved throughout the years, NARA has worked to keep up with best practices. However, despite our efforts to stay ahead of the curve, there are still photographs in our Catalog that were digitized many years ago and don’t necessarily meet the requirements to be considered “high resolution.” Specifically, researchers are likely to come across GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) files, which is more or less an outdated format in terms of digitization. While we are currently working to replace GIF files in our Catalog, in the meantime, researchers may be able to obtain higher resolution JPG/JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and TIF/TIFF (Tag Image File Format) versions by searching Wikimedia Commons. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to find JPG and TIF files when the only version available in our Catalog is a GIF.*


1. You find a GIF file in the National Archives Catalog. Copy the National Archives Identifier number.


2. Go to Wikimedia Commons and paste the National Archives Identifier into the search bar.


3. If there are higher resolution copies available, they usually appear within the top 5 search results.


4. After choosing between a JPG and TIF file, click on “Download.”


5. Choose file resolution.



NARA staff have been working to add higher resolution versions to series that were originally uploaded as GIFs, so there are some instances where there are multiple file types available to download from our Catalog. In instances where a GIF and a JPG exist, but there is no TIF version, it is worth searching Wikimedia Commons to see if a TIF is available. The following is an example of that scenario.



*Please note that these instructions only apply to older digitization projects in which GIFs were the original files uploaded to the Catalog.


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