375,000 Images Given to Creative Commons by The Met

375,000 Images Given to Creative Commons by The Met

As of February 7, 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) made all images of public-domain works available under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). So whether you’re an artist or a designer, an educator or a student, a professional or a hobbyist, you now have more than 375,000 images of artworks from The Met collection to use, share, and remix—without restriction. This policy change to Open Access is an exciting milestone in The Met’s digital evolution, and a strong statement about increasing access to the collection and how to best fulfill the Museum’s mission in a digital age.

The Met has an incredible encyclopedic collection: 1.5 million objects spanning 5,000 years of culture from around the globe. Since the museum’s audience is really the three billion internet-connected individuals around the world, The Met decided to think big about how to reach these viewers, and increase their focus on those digital tactics that have the greatest impact. Open Access is one of those tactics.

The images The Met is making available under a CC0 license relate to 200,000 public-domain artworks in our collection that the Museum has already digitally catalogued. This represents an incredible body of work by curators, conservators, photographers, librarians, cataloguers, interns, and technologists over the past 147 years of the institution’s history. This is work that is always ongoing: just last year The Met added 21,000 new images to the online collection, 18,000 of which relate to works in the public domain.

To help find these images on their website, they’ve added a feature that allows users to filter searches to only those works that The Met believes are public domain; all of these Open Access images are marked with the CC0 logo on their respective object page.


Alongside the images, they’re also making available under CC0 each artwork’s key information, otherwise known as tombstone data—title, maker, date, culture, medium, and dimensions—on all 440,000 artworks that the Museum has digitized to date; this data is now available as a downloadable file on GitHub. By making this information available in a clear, machine-readable format, The Met is making it easier for the world to search for, play with, and explore the breadth and depth of the Museum’s collection.

Enabled by the Museum’s move to open access, The Met also announced a series of major new partnerships—with Creative Commons, the Wikimedia community, Artstor, the Digital Public Library of America, and Pinterest. The Met will be blogging about these partnerships in the coming weeks, but one aspect they are particularly excited about is that they currently have a Wikimedian-in-Residence, Richard Knipel. Over the coming months he will be collaborating with fellow Wikimedians to help “Wikify The Met, and Metify the Wiki.” Richard will also help host The Met’s first events for the Wikimedia community.

The Met expects these partnerships to become an ever-larger component of the Digital Department’s work. The Met serves over 30 million visitors on their website each year, which they see as the canonical source for information about the collection; but they went on to say, “if we want to connect the collection to three billion individuals around the world, we know that they’re never all going to come to metmuseum.org.”

To make the Museum as accessible as possible, The Met needs to ensure that the collection exists in those online locations where people already go for doses of creativity, knowledge, and ideas. That’s why these types of partnerships are so important to the Museum, and why, by enabling these partnerships, the Open Access policy change is such an exciting milestone for digital at The Met.

For more information, please see metmuseum.org/openaccess.

The Met’s Open Access initiative is made possible through the continued generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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