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Metropolitan Museum puts artwork in Creative Commons

08th February 2017

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has launched a new initiative called Open Access, which places 375,000 images of public-domain artworks in the Creative Commons, it has been reported. 

As one of the world’s most important and well-established museums, this move means that art lovers can access thousands of images of many of the Metropolitan’s holdings on Wikimedia. This includes images of paintings, sculptures, drawings and other works. 

Users are also able to freely use the images without copyright restrictions on how and where they use them. Those with a love for art can simply head to the Creative Commons website where they can search for their favourite masterpieces by either creator, title, or tags. Users are then free to use the images as they wish. 

In addition to this, the museum is in the process of planning a number of edits and further efforts to update the data entries for each work. 

Popular picture-sharing social media platform Pinterest, and Artsor, the online database for images of artworks, are also helping the Open Access initiative. 

Among the artworks are Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, a marble bust of a Hellenistic ruler, a Nadar photograph of the artist and his wife in a hot-air balloon, the Neo-Sumerian Statue of Gudea, and the “Unicorn Tapestries.” 

However, some of the museum’s more modern and contemporary artworks are not yet in the Creative Commons because of copyright restrictions held by artists' estates, foundations, galleries and various artists'-rights groups. 

Other museums like the Louvre and the Hermitage have already started similar initiatives, setting a standard for world-class encyclopedic museums.

Similarly, in Amsterdam the Rijksmuseum has pushed to add images to its holdings to the creative commons, as well as The Dallas Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Yale Art Gallery, and the Yale Center for British Art.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum director Thomas P. Campbell said: “The museum now becomes the largest and most diverse open-access museum collection in the world.  This new open-access initiative demonstrates our desire to adapt our practices.

“Increasing access to the collection has been a priority for over a decade. Twenty years ago, as a scholar, we had to negotiate access even for catalogue cards.”

Overall, the free images cover 200,000 individual works of art, with new images being added every day. It is believed that this is about half of the images represented online or roughly 13 per cent of the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection of 1.5 million artworks. 

Lauren Nemroff, head of digital content at the Met explains that the collection represents 5,000 years of human endeavour, culture and thought, and hopes that the images will help people to create new works of their own. 

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