Photon strength functions describing the average response of the nucleus to an electromagnetic probe are key input information in the theoretical modelling of nuclear reactions. Consequently they are important for a wide range of fields such as nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics, medical isotope production, fission and fusion reactor technologies. They are also sources of information for widely used reaction libraries such as the IAEA Reference Input Parameter Library and evaluated data files such as EGAF. In the past two decades, the amount of reaction gamma-ray data measured to determine photon strength functions has grown rapidly. Different experimental techniques have led to discrepant results and users are faced with the dilemma of which (if any) of the divergent data to adopt. We report on a coordinated effort to compile and assess the existing experimental data on photon strength functions from the giant dipole resonance region to energies below the neutron separation energy. The assessment of the discrepant data at energies around or below the neutron separation energy has been possible only in a few cases where adequate information on the model-dependent analysis and estimation of uncertainties was available. In the giant dipole resonance region, we adopt the recommendations of the new IAEA photonuclear data library. We also present global empirical and semi-microscopic models that describe the photon strength functions in the entire energy region and reproduce reasonably well most of the experimental data. The compiled experimental photon strengths and recommended model calculations are available from the PSF database hosted at the IAEA (http://www-nds.iaea.org/PSFdatabase).