May 16, 2022

Stanford University Libraries & Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) Unveil French Revolution Digital Archive, Includes More than 14,000 Hi-Res Images

From Hyperallergic:

Toppled crowns and tumbrels to the guillotine are just part of the massive archive of images and documents released online this month. The French Revolution Digital Archive, a partnership between Stanford University and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, was announced last week with some 14,000 high-resolution images.

From the French Embassy of the U.S.:

The site contains both resources for the dedicated scholar and fascinating material for the everyday history buff, from prints depicting the events of 1789 to records of parliamentary deliberations and private letters.

FRDA is the result of a multi-year collaboration of the Stanford University Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) to produce a digital version of the key research sources on the French Revolution and make them available to the international scholarly community.

The search engine that powers the French Revolution Digital Archive allows users to limit by:

  • Date, Date Range
  • Material Found in Speeches
  • Proximity of Words (1-5 words)
  • Only Words in Title and Key Terms
  • Turn Off Stemming

Facets allow users to refine results. Categories include:

  • People
  • Documents
  • Genre
  • Collection
  • Artist

A dynamically created visualization located at the top of every search results pages allows users to view results grouped by volume (year/month).

From the Curator Section of the FRDA Web Site:

The FRDA provides access to the most complete searchable digital archive of French Revolution images available. Images de la Révolution française is a benchmark image-base undertaken by the Bibliothèque nationale de France on the occasion of the Revolution’s bicentennial in 1989. It aimed to “allow the reader to explore the relationships, articulations and confrontations between the ideas of the Revolution and their metaphorical embodiment, the constant cross-fertilization of ideology and make-believe…” For this project the BnF created over 38,000 separate views of over 14,000 individual images, showing closeups and dividing documents with discrete iconographic materials into appropriate sections. The Images, which were originally offered in analog format on laserdisc, had become extremely difficult to access due to rapid technological change. Within the framework of its digitization programs, the BnF rescanned at high resolution almost half of the images on the laserdisc from the original materials. New JPEG files were created from the original videodisc for the remaining images in the corpus. Now all of these images are available online as part of the FRDA.


The images included in the FRDA are classified by provenance or by subject within the collections of the BnF. Descriptions of the Hennin and De Vinck image collections, which constitute an important part of the FRDA corpus, are found in separate print catalogues. The Images de la Revolution francaise laserdisc constituted an initial stage in the development of an iconographic corpus of the Revolution, bringing these visual materials together into a single collection accessible through highly indexed descriptive metadata using a controlled vocabulary for artists, iconographic genres, places of publications, and subject terms. Unfortunately the obsolescence of laserdisc technology meant the loss of access to this descriptive metadata, as well as to certain images themselves, which became available only through the General Catalog of the BnF. FRDA incorporates this indexed metadata, and expands its research possibilities, by finally restoring access to this coherent corpus of iconographic materials on the French Revolution.

Direct to French Revolution Digital Archive

Direct to Images of the French Revolution

On Use and Reproduction of Material (via Web Site)

This image(s) is a digital reproduction of works from the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France that are no longer protected by intellectual property rights. The use of these contents for commercial purposes is subject to payment and covered by a license. Commercial use includes the resale of the contents in the form of prepared products or the supply of services.

For commercial use, contact:

The use of these contents for non-commercial purposes is free of charge, subject to compliance with applicable French legislation and notably the inclusion of the source’s statement.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.