Yesterday, the J. Paul Getty Trust announced that they will be “making roughly 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose.” The post announcing the news on The Getty Iris, the institution’s blog, was penned by Getty President and CEO James Cuno. It’s a welcome announcement from a major institution that has over 121,000 objects in its museum collection.
“This decision is in keeping with the mission of the trust,” Cuno told Hyperallergic. “We got together [with the heads of our various divisions] … and concluded we have to get behind this initiative.”
“We always made our collection, such as they were, available for academic purposes or for publication for free. It was only commercial use that was restricted,” Cuno says.
The decision will free up 4,600 high-resolution images from the museum’s collection, including such major works as Van Gogh’s “Irises” (1889), Rembrandt’s “The Abduction of Europa” (1632), and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, for commercial and non-commercial use. The only requirement for downloaders is that they let the Getty know what the image will be used for and the stipulation that they include the citation for the image. All the images are currently from the museum but, Cuno says, they expect to tap the other collections, such as the conservation and research collections, for similar treatment.
Cuno explains that the decision seemed easy when they considered that the issue of providing the content for free to the public was at the “dead center at the vision of fusion of artistic and general knowledge,” which is the focus of the Getty Trust’s vision.
The Getty, Cuno says, will work to place its entire collection online, but there are certainly challenges, among them the photographing of the entire collection, including the thousands of pottery shards in the Getty Villa collection, and navigating the minefield of copyright laws, which may be particularly difficult in regard to their 72,799-object photography collection.
When asked what the financial cost for such an ambitious endeavor would be, Cuno replied, “We didn’t want cost to influence this decision.”