Multimedia Reference

As scholarship moves toward the visual representation of information and teaching recognizes the multiple intelligences of learners, sources of audio, visual, and multi-media are in demand.  Faculty may seek the librarian’s help in locating high value materials or your counsel in using them.  Students creating presentations of their own research also look for creative media.  

Copyright and Ethical Use of Images, Audio, and Video

First a disclaimer:  this module does not constitute legal advice. Contact legal counsel of your school for specific situations.  That said, there are a few principles to guide the ethical use of multimedia.  In terms of art, though the original work may be long out of copyright (such as works by Rembrandt), the copyright owner is the person who created the image of the work (or that person’s employer, if done as part of the job).  Therefore, it is important to be aware of permissions before using an image.  Most web sites with media have links outlining the rights, requested attributions, and limited permissions for use.  In this case, it’s prudent to read the fine print on user agreements.

One action that is always legal is making a link to an image, audio, or video.  Another action most likely legal is displaying or presenting an image, audio, or video during class instruction. Personal and instructional use for scholarship is usually claimed under educational fair use, so it is important to understand guidelines for that use. The four guiding factors are found in documents below. If your school has a distance education program, your use may be governed by the TEACH Act, signed in 2002.  Clearly, if you want to publish something for profit, either in print or on the web, you must obtain permission.  In cases where there is doubt, be sure to use items under the creative commons license or seek permission from the copyright holder.

These documents provide an overview of copyright and the guidelines of educational fair use.

Images Online

Finding images on search engines is so easy, yet the thousands of results can be a bit overwhelming. Furthermore, it is very difficult to know if the images on web sites can be legally copied. To find some sources of art and photography that has been vetted by librarians and other religious professionals, look at the directories below.  Some sites have even obtained permission for non-commercial user.

Art Concordance - Jenee Woodard has assembled a large number of links from a wide variety of sources which can be searched by artwork theme, scriptural reference, or appointed lectionary.

Art in the Christian Tradition - Over 2600 images which are free to use for educational and non-profit settings.  Search by keyword or lectionary week. Some designation of rights on pages or check original source for copyright restrictions.

Biblical Art on the Web - Links to images on dozens of sites by Rolf E. Stærk, a Norwegian theologian and school teacher.  Can be searched by Biblical Subject or Text, Artist, or Keyword. “Important: Since the links lead to images hosted by other sites than mine, it is impossible for me to give a general permission for any kind of use of the pictures. If a permission is wanted, the host must be consulted. Every image-link is accompanied by a link to the main page of the host.” (Quote from the site.)

Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative of the ATLA - These digitized images include scans of text, art, and one collection of mp4 video files. Images are available for academic use with the attribution listed on the site.  There is a simple search function, which can be limited to a selected collection or used to search all collections. Go to the homepage of the holding library for each collection to often find superior search functionality. Most of the materials in this collection are in the public domain and have been digitized by the libraries holding them.  Usually a simple attribution is required for non-commercial use.

Creative Commons Flickr / Wikimedia Commons - These two sites have searchable collections of photos (some of works of art) that allow use of most items with attribution to the creator.

Digital Scriptorium - The Digital Scriptorium is an image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. It bridges the gap between a diverse user community and the limited resources of libraries by means of sample imaging and extensive rather than intensive cataloguing.   (from the website)

Islamic Art - Beautiful examples of calligraphy, pottery and photography from the LA County Museum of Art.

Next Sunday Gallery - Geographical, archaeological, and artifactual photos to support Bible study provided by Smyth & Helwys Publishing to “enhance the educational experience in both academic and congregational settings.” (from the web site) Blanket permission granted for local church and academic settings with an attribution. Arranged geographically with few other descriptors for searching.

Religious Resources - A very large directory of interfaith (though mostly Christian) resources compiled by Susan Brumbaugh. Though resource rich, many of the linked sites are commercial and expect to be paid for their images.

Wabash Center Internet Guide Images - The Wabash Center in Indiana “seeks to strengthen and enhance education in North American theological schools, colleges and universities.” Its Internet guide is an annotated list of image sources, all vetted by a librarian. As with other directories, drilling into the content requires some experimentation.  The top picks are especially recommended.

Web Gallery of Art- Masterworks of Europe with permissions to use for personal or educational purpose.

The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European painting and sculpture. The creation of this website is one of the results of a broader project started in 1996 with the following basic objectives:

  • working out techniques for the efficient use of the Internet in visual education (in elementary and middle schools as well as in home schooling) and evaluate these techniques by creating an on-line educational tool in art history,
  • working out experimentally a new multimedia "genre" (a composite of picture exhibition, catalogue, essays, database, meeting place, art forum, etc.) best suitable for presenting and popularising classical visual art on the Internet. (from the web site)

Yale Divinity Digital and Text Library - This collection is composed of two databases:

Due to copyright restrictions, some images are available only for Yale affiliates; others are given permission for teaching and research.

Licensed sources of Images:


Maps are a specific category of images. Many study collections are available online.  The advent of Geographic Information Systems offer new options for interactivity and visual information creation.  One example of this is:

Bible Geocoding - An emerging trend in visual presentation is to map locations found in textual references to geographic locations using GIS programs such as Google Earth.  This project does so with biblical references. This visual representation of information will be increasingly sought after in reference interactions.

Online map collections:

Print Atlases:

  • Carta Bible Atlas, (2002) 4th ed. of the MacMillan Bible Atlas - Clear, monochromatic maps with descriptions of related historical eras and events.
  • Oxford Bible Atlas, 4th ed. (2007) Over 25 full color maps with accompanying photos


Sound enriches teaching and learning, Spoken word offers content in a form better received by auditory learners.  Music can provide a cultural introduction to varied faith traditions.

Wabash Center’s Selections - The Wabash Center Internet Guide suggests high quality sources of hymns and other sacred music, pronunciation guides to the Bible, and important voices in world religions

Speaking of Faith - National Public Radio’s Krista Tippet hosts a weekly program examining many issues from the perspective of different world faith perspectives.  Can be subscribed as a podcast.

BBC Beyond Belief is a British correlate of the NPR show above. Older archive Current podcasts  

Learn Out Loud - This company’s mission is to offer audio for personal and professional growth.  Their extensive catalog is divided by subject and is searchable.  The link above goes to their free resources.

Mars Hill AudioMars Hill Audio is committed to assisting Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.

iTunesUniversity is an emerging source of academic audio.  Content includes lectures by world renowned  scholars.

  • Download the iTunes client  
  • Go to the iTunes store
  • Click power search in the right column
  • In the search box, limit the power search results to iTunesU.
  • Use keyword searching to find MP3’s of interest.


Students of preaching are often required to listen to recorded sermons. Virtually every theology library and most university collections have some recorded sermons, though these vary widely. Search the library catalog with sermon in the subject area in combination with author search for name of preacher and/or keyword on faith tradition or topic. Examples:

  • Sermons American—African American authors
  • Sermons, American—Women Authors
  • Presbyterian Church--Sermons
  • Baptists--Sermons

Day1 (Formerly the Protestant Hour)  is the voice of the mainline churches, presenting outstanding preachers from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church. has an extensive library of lectionary-based sermons, audio and video programming, and other helpful resources for lay persons and pastors.

Lectionary Related Podcasts - These audio aids for preaching include devotions, discussion, and sermons. - The largest library of sermons in the conservative tradition. Good search function. Some read sermons of C.H. Spurgeon


Films are used in many ways for teaching and learning.  Selections from feature films may be used to illustrate a theological question or set up a case study for discussion.  Documentaries can be research sources in areas of the filmmaker’s expertise (such as biography) or as secondary sources where direct research is not feasible for members of a class (such as prison interviews).

Helpful guides to religion in feature films: guide to religious movies - The focus of this site is the faith affiliation of movie themes, directors, and actors.

Text Week’s Movie Concordance - Jenee Woodard has compiled supplemental information about hundreds of films with biblical themes.  May be searched by title or theme, but not by bible passage, however the weekly lectionary listing has links to scriptural themes from the movie concordance.  Note mention of a potential site license to show films in a congregational gathering.

Sources of documentary film: Most local collections have educational films.  Search the local catalog or WorldCat a Using the first search expert interface, try a Boolean search: documentary and __________________.  Item type may be limited to visual/DVD and audience to non-juvenille.  Many schools will lend DVD’s through Interlibrary Loan.  If a film might be of value over multiple years in your collection, consider these sources of high quality film.

Ambrose Video Publishing, Inc - Distributor for BBC, Time-Life, and many other education productions, including the excellent Long Search series on world religious traditions.

Films for the Humanities and Science - Streaming media options for purchase.

Icarus Films on Religion - “Distributing innovative and provocative documentary films from independent producers around the world.” (from the website)

New Media GroupDistributors of A&E and the History Channel

YouTubeU - Like iTunesU, YouTube has a dedicated category for academic materials called the YouTube University channel.  Searching is a less straightforward than in iTunes, but using targeted keywords can find thought provoking items.