NEW YORK (AP) – A collection of 250,000 images including maps, Civil War photos, illuminated medieval manuscripts and historic menus will be accessible online starting Thursday, the New York Public Library announced Wednesday.

“By opening the doors of our acclaimed collections to users over the Internet, we are plunging fully into an exciting new era of library service,” said library President Paul LeClerc.

“These visual materials, many of which are unique to the library, will be available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection at any time, free of charge,” he added.

The initial 250,000 items in the NYPL Digital Gallery, selected by curators from all of the library’s divisions, will grow to 500,000 images over the next several months, library officials said.

The materials can be downloaded free for personal use, and any use of the images for publication or in film, television or the Internet can be arranged through the library’s Permissions Department.

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