Earlier this month, Google.com announced that users would soon be able to search through defunct Life Magazine’s photo archive via Google’s image search service. Founded in 1883 Life closed shop in 2006. In those 120 years, Life compiled an enormous photo archive composed of over 10 million images, some of them dating from the 1750s*. It’s estimated that only about 20 percent of those images ever saw publication. Currently, about 20 percent of that collection has been placed online. When the entire archive is online, 80 percent of the materials will be available for the first time ever in any format. That’s 8 million previously unseen images!
Google provides a search page here: http://images.google.com/hosted/life.
You can also search the collection through Google’s regular image search page by entering your search terms followed by the string “source:Life” without quotations, e.g. “horses source:Life” without quotations.
Now, there seems to be a limit of 200 images per search. If you are having difficulty finding an image it isn’t necessarily missing. If you are fairly certain it is in the collection, try this method: instead of using general search terms like “war” or “general”, use more specific terms such as “Vietnam War” or “General Eisenhower.” This helps sneak your results past the 200 photo limit returned by those other, rather broad terms.
*Practical photography did not exist before the early 1820s, images in the collection dated before the 1820s are generally images of drawings and etchings.