Import photos from Smithsonian Open Access for use on taxon pages

The title says it all. The Smithsonian Institute has just released Smithsonian Open Access, described on their front page as follows:

Welcome to Smithsonian Open Access, where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking. With new platforms and tools, you have easier access to nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections—with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

This is an amazingly robust depository, and all of the photos are free to use with absolutely no restrictions. Is it possible it can be integrated alongside iNat Observations, Flickr, EOL, and Wikimedia Commons as a source to pull Taxon Photos from?

There are still plenty of obscure organisms on iNaturalist that lack any observations on the site. Without a photo associated with their taxon page, it is difficult for users to verify what they have found. We do not even really have access to EOL anymore since they updated their whole site, so we can only really rely on Wikimedia Commons and Flickr for obscure taxa. These sources are usually great, but they are not always well-curated as anyone can upload photos to those sites.

The reinstatement of an accredited, institutionalized option would be beneficial, and I really think Smithsonian Open Access (SOA) would be a perfect fit.

This would be great, especially since EoL photos haven’t been working properly for some time now. I’m not sure if anything was said about if this is fixable on iNat or not. Smithsonian Open Access regrettably doesn’t seem to have many of the obscure paper wasp species that I’ve been hoping to have added, but I do see a few useful ichneumonid wasps. I do wonder how easy it would be to integrate… they do have a searchable system, so I would suspect it would be easier than trying to fix EoL links.


Looks like they have an API, we can take a look to see if it’ll work with iNat.

@bobby23 just a heads up, you have to vote for your own topics.


That sounds amazing!


Great! Give the ubiquitous, yet mysterious tachinid flies a voice!


Great resource. It seems a bit light on Noctuid moths, though. Lots of flashy large moths, though.

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Reminder to those feeling that collections are light on one taxa or another: this is only the 2.8 million images available at launch. There is a great deal more which has not yet been digitized or is planned to be aggregated as new batch release updates. From the website:

“The Smithsonian is committed to releasing over 3 million items throughout 2020 alone. Beyond 2020, it will add more items on a continuing basis as they are digitized, researched, and published online.”

So looks like we can expect the database to at least double in size this year alone.


Someone has to complain!!! :grin:


I have no idea how to use this resource. My specific interest is ants so I typed in ‘Formicidae’ and got a lot of specimen labels but nothing else???

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FWIW, if you want to immediately integrate these into iNat, you could download them from Smithsonian and upload them to Wikimedia Commons. Probably only legit for CC-licensed or CC0 images, and clearly you should be careful and complete in filling out metadata when uploading to Wikimedia Commons, but that would make them findable when choosing taxon images on iNat.


This topic is referred to by, and a similar question was raised in one of the points dealt with, in the following topic :

There the similar point is referred to as “Question 1” in a post proposed as a solution and summary.

The conclusion on this point was :

What is the follow-up of your thread here, perhaps specific to the Smithsonian Institute’s database ?