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Metropolitan Museum Gives Unrestricted Access to 375,000 Images

Under the institution’s new Open Access policy, images of hundreds of thousands of works from its collection are available to copy, remix, and distribute freely.

A remix of Eadweard Muybridge’s “Woman Opening Parasol” (all GIFs and images by the author for Hyperallergic)

As of today, over 375,000 images of artworks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art are available for you to freely download with absolutely no restrictions under copyright law. The institution announced the effort as part of its new Open Access policy, which includes new collaborations with partners from Creative Commons to Wikimedia to Pinterest to help its collection be as easily and widely accessible as possible.

Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of public domain images from the Met’s collection have been available online for free, but downloads were restricted for non-commercial use and scholarly publication. This stems from the Met’s former policies concerning its own photography of historical artworks. Now, these images are all licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal, which means you can copy, remix, and distribute all of these artworks for any use — yes, even for commercial purposes.

Sift through the database on Creative Commons, where you can find favorite images, save them to your own lists, and add tags. If you have Pinterest, you can also pin artworks straight from that platform. Images will be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as well, where the museum’s new and first-ever Wikipedian in Residence, Richard Knipel, will be integrating them within Wikimedia projects such as WikiProject Metropolitan Museum of Art. Working with other Wikipedians, Knipel will document each artwork’s metadata and plans on hosting multilingual edit-a-thons to create articles on major artworks and art topics.

The museum does note, however, that although it believes all public domain images are included in this initiative, certain ones may not be available if they are still under copyright, or if their copyright statuses are unclear; if privacy or publicity issues exist; if the works are owned by someone other than the Met; if restrictions by the artist, donor, or lender exist; or if there is simply no digital image of suitable quality. Still, 375,000 is a lot to get creative with, so dive in, explore, and remix away.

A remix of Egyptian cat heads
A contemporary take on “The Death of Munrow” (ca 1820-30)
Updating Quentin Metsys’s “Portrait of a Woman” (ca 1520)
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