Free Coloring Books from World-Class Libraries & Museums: Download & Color Hundreds of Free Images

There are many roads to well­ness. Med­i­ta­tion, yoga, exer­cise, and healthy diet are all effec­tive ther­a­pies for bring­ing down stress lev­els. But we shouldn’t dis­count an activ­i­ty we once used to while hours away as chil­dren, and that adults by the mil­lions have tak­en to in recent years. Col­or­ing takes us out of our­selves, say experts like Doc­tor of Psy­chi­a­try Scott M. Bea, “it’s very much like a med­i­ta­tive exer­cise.” It relax­es our brain by focus­ing our atten­tion and push­ing dis­tract­ing and dis­turb­ing thoughts to the mar­gins. The low stakes make the activ­i­ty easy and plea­sur­able, qual­i­ties grown-ups don’t get to ascribe to most of what they spend their time doing.

Reduc­ing anx­i­ety is all well and good, but some art and his­to­ry lovers can’t accept just any old mass-mar­ket col­or­ing book. Luck­i­ly, a con­sor­tium of over a hun­dred muse­ums and libraries has giv­en these spe­cial cus­tomers a rea­son to stick with it. Since 2016, the annu­al #Col­or­Our­Col­lec­tions cam­paign, led by the New York Acad­e­my of Med­i­cine (NYAM), has made avail­able, for free, adult col­or­ing books. The range of images offers some­thing for every­one, from ear­ly mod­ern illus­tra­tions like the cat at the top, from Edward Topsell’s His­to­rie of Foure-Foot­ed Beast­es (1607)—courtesy of Trin­i­ty Hall Cam­bridge; to the poignant cov­er of The Suf­frag­ist, below, from July 1919, a month after U.S. women won the right to the vote (from the Hunt­ing­ton Library, Art Muse­um, and Botan­i­cal Gar­dens).

There are, unsur­pris­ing­ly, copi­ous illus­tra­tions of med­ical pro­ce­dures and anato­my, like that below from the Library at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Barcelona. There are vin­tage adver­tise­ments, “canoe-heavy con­tent” from a Cana­di­an muse­um, as Kather­ine Wu reports at Smith­son­ian, and war posters like that fur­ther down of Admi­ral Chester Nimitz ask­ing for “the stuff” to hit “the spot,” i.e. Tokyo –from the Pritzk­er Mil­i­tary Muse­um. “The only com­mon­al­i­ty shared by the thou­sands of prints and draw­ings avail­able on the NYAM web­site is their black-and-white appear­ance: The pages oth­er­wise span just about every taste and illus­tra­tive predilec­tion a col­or­ing con­nois­seur could con­jure.”

One Twit­ter fan point­ed out that the ini­tia­tive pro­vides “a great way to get to know some of the col­lec­tions held in libraries around the world.” Their enthu­si­asm is catch­ing. But note that few of the insti­tu­tions (see full col­lec­tion here) have uploaded a large quan­ti­ty of col­orable images. Most of the “col­or­ing books” con­sist of only a hand­ful of pages, some only one or two. Tak­en alto­geth­er, how­ev­er, the com­bined strength of one hun­dred insti­tu­tions, over four years (see pre­vi­ous years at the links below), adds up to many hun­dreds of pages of col­or­ing fun and relax­ation. If that’s your thing, start here. If you don’t know if it’s your thing, #Col­or­Our­Col­lec­tions is a free (minus the cost of print­er ink and paper), edu­ca­tion­al way to find out. Grab those crayons, oil pas­tels, col­ored pen­cils, etc. and calm down again the way you did when you were six years old.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Free Col­or­ing Books from World-Class Libraries & Muse­ums: The New York Pub­lic Library, Bodleian, Smith­son­ian & More

Free Col­or­ing Books from World-Class Libraries & Muse­ums: The Met, New York Pub­lic Library, Smith­son­ian & More

Down­load 150 Free Col­or­ing Books from Great Libraries, Muse­ums & Cul­tur­al Insti­tu­tions: The British Library, Smith­son­ian, Carnegie Hall & More

Down­load Free Col­or­ing Books from 113 Muse­ums

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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