Met Museum Makes Hundreds of Catalogues Available Online for Free

by Hrag Vartanian on October 11, 2012

Bibliophiles rejoice! The Metropolitan Museum of Art has published 643 books about art and art history online, including the full contents of 368 out-of-print titles from 1964 to the present. The site, MetPublications, is a quick reference guide of some of the museum’s finest publications in their full color glory.

A view of the Met’s 1989 “The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815” catalogue on Google Books.

The Metropolitan also announced today that they plan to expand the online site to eventually offer access to nearly all books, Bulletins, and Journals published by the museum since its founding in 1870.

Currently in-print titles may be previewed and fully searched online, with links to purchase the books. The full contents of almost all other titles may be read online, searched, or downloaded as a PDF, at no cost. Books can be read and searched through the Google Book program, an initiative, the museum says, to maximize access to the publications.

A unique feature of MetPublications is that many out-of-print books are now available through print-on-demand capabilities, with copies offered for purchase through Yale University Press. Currently 140 titles are available in print-on-demand paperbound copies with digitally printed color reproductions.

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  • Dada

    This is great, I’d love to see some collaboration with the Coursera team in order to bring Art classes online! Not necessarily with the Met but any museum that lists educating the public about art as a priority.

  • This will be a wonderful resource – for teaching and simply for personal access to the publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most museum catalogs are short press runs and they end up out of publication.

    Like other organizations, museums have had problems coping with the digital era: everything is easily replicated – there are no “original copies” in the digital environment – and yet museums are predicated on the uniqueness of the original art work. In some respects they are just like traditional libraries, founded on the principle of scarcity of what they have within their walls, and the need to conserve the works and control access.

    Internet access and now eBooks are forcing libraries to reinvent themselves or become irrelevant. Museums have yet to face an “eBook-like” challenge for their holdings (though it will come at some point in the future) so they still have original works that cannot be easily replicated. But everything else they do can be and should be reproduced digitally and to the extent possible, be freely available. Otherwise, they will lose the ability to do outreach and be relevant to the needs of a changing society.

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