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.
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.