In 1908, French financier Albert Kahn created a project that aimed to photograph the diversity of humanity across the planet. He hired 12 photographers to capture images of everyday life and culture around the globe. His staff traveled to 50 nations to document humanity. Sadly, his project, Archives of the Planet, ended in 1931 after he went bankrupt due to the stock market crash.
Over the course of the project, the photographers took more more than 72,000 photos of people and cultural sites, and also chronicled major events such as the First World War and the Turkish War of Independence.
TheArchives of the Planet project still survives and is currently managed by the Albert-Kahn Museum, which has now made about 69,000 high-resolution color photos free for download or perusal. Almost 25,000 of them are in the public domain, giving anyone free license to use and build upon them as they wish, no strings attached. The other 34,000 images, also high-res, come with varying guidelines for usage.
Although the photographs have long been viewable on the site, they were previously low in quality and displayed on a janky interface that was difficult to use. The museum now has launched a digital revamp for its Image Portal, and is now allowing users to download the photos in full resolution.