“Wheat Field with Cypresses,” by Vincent van Gogh, 1889 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Scarcely two weeks has passed since we celebrated the partial digitization of the Museum of Natural History’s jaw-dropping collection, and already another museum is liberalizing its own policies online.

This time it’s New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which announced Saturday that more than 400,000 high-res images from the museum’s collections will now be available for free digital download and use in any non-commercial medium — Facebook, Tumblr and personal blogs included.

Copies of the images were online previously, explained Met spokeswoman Ann Bailis, but the new policy is intended to expand access further. Essentially, the museum is recognizing — much like the Museum of Natural History and the Digital Public Library of America — that the Internet can prove a compelling means to make public domain materials tangibly, usefully public.

The newly freed images are available on the museum’s Web site and tagged with the acronym “OASC,” for Open Access for Scholarly Content; new images will be added to the program on a regular basis.

“Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain,” museum Director Thomas P. Campbell  said in a statement. “I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection.”

Among the images in the open-access trove: pieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent, among many others, as well as thousands of photographs and textiles and pieces from the museum’s hefty medieval, Islamic and Asian collections. Many of the free-to-download images aren’t currently on display.


“Miss Ide,” by Frank Eugene, 1890-1903 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Spring Blossoms, Montclair, New Jersey,” by George Inness, 1891 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“The Hippopotamus at the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park,” by Juan de Borbón, 1852 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Garden at Sainte-Adresse,” by Claude Monet, 1867 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau),” by John Singer Sargent, 1883-84 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Wires,” by Johan Hagemeyer, 1928. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Winter Scene in Moonlight,” by Henry Farrer, 1869 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)


“Two Japanese Women in Traditional Dress,” by Shinichi Suzuki, 1870s (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Notably, this isn’t the Met’s first push to get online — the initiative expands an earlier project, called Images for Academic Publishing, which the museum led in 2007. Here’s to hoping more museums get on the bandwagon.