The new service, available at http://images.google.com/hosted/life , debuted Tuesday with about 2 million photos. Eventually, Google plans to scan all 10 million photos from Life's library so they can be viewed on any computer with an Internet connection.
The new gallery gives Google a head start on Life's Web site, which is scheduled to begin showing off the photo archive in late February. Life will draw upon its editors' expertise to pick the best shots from the archives.
About 97 percent of Life's archives have not been publicly seen, according to Life.
The photos can be printed out for free as long as they aren't being used as part of an attempt to make money. Time Warner Inc., Life's parent company, hopes to make money by selling high-resolution, framed prints. The orders will be processed through Qoop.com.
Google has been indexing a wide variety of information that previously wasn't available online as part of its efforts to lure even more traffic to its popular search engine. For the past four years, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company has been scanning millions of books stored in dozens of libraries around the world.
The Life partnership represents Google's biggest undertaking in professional photography. Google hopes to work out similar arrangements with the owners of other large photo archives, said R.J. Pittman, a director of product management.