Getty Museum Opens its Public Domain Content

September 13, 2013

Our open-content loving hearts are aflutter. The Getty Museum‘s Iris magazine declares, “Open Content, an Idea Whose Time Has Come.” The Museum has just launched its Open Content Program to (gradually) share what it can of its digital archives with the masses. The museum believes it is high time to tap into today’s technology to expose more people to the magic of art and to facilitate collaboration, creativity, and education. James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, writes:

“The initial focus of the Open Content Program is to make available all images of public domain artworks in the Getty’s collections. Today we’ve taken a first step toward this goal by making roughly 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose. These are high-resolution, reproduction-quality images with embedded metadata, some over 100 megabytes in size. You can browse all available images here, or look for individual ‘download’ links on the Getty Museum’s collection pages. As part of the download, we’ll ask for a very brief description of how you’re planning to use the image. We hope to learn that the images will serve a broad range of needs and projects.”

I hope so, too. The plan is to continue adding more public-domain images as they are processed, including works in the Getty Research Institute‘s special collections. The buildup of available images will take time, since digital curators are performing a careful review of copyright and privacy restrictions. Moving forward, the museum might include other content in these archives, including documentation on field projects from the Getty Conservation Institute and other knowledge resources.

Getty admits that they are not the first museum to employ such an initiative; the organization is following the lead of others, like The Walters Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art, Yale University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Harvard University. It is a welcome move that we hope even more institutions will embrace.

Cynthia Murrell, September 13, 2013

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