Download Free Coloring Books from Nearly 100 Museums & Libraries

We here at Open Cul­ture hearti­ly endorse the prac­tice of view­ing art, whether in a phys­i­cal muse­um, in the pages of a book, or online. For some, how­ev­er, it tends to have one seri­ous short­com­ing: all the col­ors are already filled in. If you’re itch­ing to use your own col­ored pen­cils, crayons, water­col­ors, or oth­er tools of choice on draw­ings, paint­ings, and a vari­ety of oth­er works besides in the pos­ses­sion of well-known art insti­tu­tions, these past few months are a time of year to savor thanks to the ini­tia­tive Col­or Our Col­lec­tions.

Each Feb­ru­ary, Col­or Our Col­lec­tions releas­es its lat­est round of col­or­ing books free online, assem­bled from con­tri­bu­tions by the likes of the Bib­lio­thèque nationale de France, Eton Col­lege, the New York Botan­i­cal Gar­den, the Toron­to Pub­lic Library, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cis­co.

“Launched by The New York Acad­e­my of Med­i­cine Library in 2016,” says its about page, it hosts an “annu­al col­or­ing fes­ti­val on social media dur­ing which libraries, muse­ums, archives and oth­er cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions around the world share free col­or­ing con­tent fea­tur­ing images from their col­lec­tions.”

The de-col­ored pic­tures you see here offer just a taste of all you can find in this year’s Col­or Our Col­lec­tions crop. Some of the par­tic­i­pat­ing insti­tu­tions pro­vide col­orable selec­tions from across their hold­ings, some stick to a cer­tain theme, and some con­tribute actu­al vol­umes, dig­i­tized whole or cre­at­ed for the occa­sion. Take, for instance, the Ol’ Med­ical Colour­ing Book from Queen’s Uni­ver­si­ty Library, which promis­es hours of fun with pages like “ante­ri­or view of the skele­tal sys­tem,” “ven­tral view of the brain,” and “uri­nary sys­tem shown on the female form.”

These are some dis­tance from the bun­nies and but­ter­cups we col­ored in as chil­dren; so are the vig­or­ous nine­teen-thir­ties motor­cy­cle adver­tise­ments assem­bled by the Harley-David­son Archive, or the archi­tec­tur­al and archae­o­log­i­cal draw­ings from the Médiathèque de Châteaudun. But Col­or Our Col­lec­tions 2023 also con­tains a good deal of kid-direct­ed mate­r­i­al as well, includ­ing Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Library’s live­ly pack­age of ani­mal images from issues of Kodomo no Kuni, or The Land of Chil­dren — a mag­a­zine direct­ed toward the kids of Japan a cen­tu­ry ago, but then, some child­hood plea­sures know no cul­tur­al or tem­po­ral bounds. Enter the archive of 2023 col­or­ing books here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Free Col­or­ing Books from The Pub­lic Domain Review: Down­load & Col­or Works by Hoku­sai, Albrecht Dür­er, Har­ry Clarke, Aubrey Beard­s­ley & More

A Free Shake­speare Col­or­ing Book: While Away the Hours Col­or­ing in Illus­tra­tions of 35 Clas­sic Plays

The Dune Col­or­ing & Activ­i­ty Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Cre­at­ed Count­less Hours of Pecu­liar Fun for Kids

The Very First Col­or­ing Book, The Lit­tle Folks’ Paint­ing Book (Cir­ca 1879)

The First Adult Col­or­ing Book: See the Sub­ver­sive Exec­u­tive Col­or­ing Book From 1961

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.