#ColorOurCollections Is Back, Turning Your Favorite Cultural Institutions Into Coloring Books

In its second year, it’s more vibrant than ever

This Ichthyosaurus fossil is contained in an illustration from an 1830 book now found on the Biodiversity Heritage Library's Flickr collection of images ready to color. BHL
A woodcut from 1482 is yours for the coloring in a book by the Bodleian Library. Bodleian Library
Gymnasts tumble and entertain in a print from the 1830s found in the New York Public Library's 2017 #ColorOurCollections coloring book. NYPL
Snakes on a woodcut! This image comes from Edward Topsell's Historie of Serpents (1608), now housed at the Folger. Folger Library
This illustration by Alfons Mucha is available in a coloring book created by Europeana. Europeana

What’s better than taking in art, illustration and documents of historical import in a museum or library? Getting out your crayons or colored pencils and drawing all over it, of course. And you can do just that all week long thanks to an international group of museums, libraries and other institutions participating in an initiative called #ColorOurCollections.

No, it’s not an invitation to vandalism—rather, participating organizations have rounded images from their collections that make great coloring pages. From illustrations to maps to everything in between, the eminently color-worthy pictures are just begging to be filled in. And thanks to the magic of the internet, they’re just a click and a printer away.

The concept was first launched by the New York Academy of Medicine Library last year, and since then more than 60 institutions have decided to participate in the weeklong festivities. They range from art museums to public libraries, botanical gardens to universities. All of the participating institutions are sharing images suitable for coloring using the simple hashtag on a variety of social media. Alongside the obvious potential for fun, the week also serves up some knowledge. Participants are encouraged to share information about the images they’ve posted, creating an educational opportunity alongside the artistic one.

So far, #ColorOurCollections 2017 is off to a brilliant start. Here are a few highlights:

The Biodversity Heritage Library

The Biodiversity Heritage Library, a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that boasts millions of pages of literature about plants and animals, not only created a full coloring book, but also made a whole Flickr collection of its black-and-white images that anyone can access.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's coloring book is an appetizer into its vast, vast collection. So take a page from its book, literally, and draw on everything from a centuries-old astronomical charts to anatomical drawings.

Smithsonian Libraries

The Smithsonian Libraries are in on the act, too, with a coloring book devoted to Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's new exhibition Color in a New Light. Running until March, the exhibit explores the ways color connects to daily life, and the topic is the perfect canvas for inspiring an at-home masterpiece. 

Folger Shakespeare Library

The Folger Shakespeare Library has made multiple old woodcuts and illustrations from Shakespeare plays available on its site. (Definitely check out this slithery 17th-century serpent.)


Europeana, a digital collection of European museum treasures, has put an Art Nouveau coloring book out for your consideration, filled with dreamy illustrations by artists like Alphonse Mucha.

These are only a few of the treasures of Color Our Collections thus far—the rest of the week is sure to yield even more coloring sheets just begging for your artistic skill to make them your own.

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