The Smithsonian Institution publishes 2.8 million high-resolution images from its huge public domain collection, allowing them to be used online and downloaded for free. The open access online platform contains 2D and 3D images of its 19 museums, nine research centers, archives, libraries and the National Zoo, Smithsonian Magazine reports.
“Being a relevant resource for people learning all over the world is the key to our mission,” said Effie Kapsalis, senior Smithsonian digital program officer. “We cannot imagine what people will do with the collections. We are willing to be surprised. “
A quick scan of the Smithsonian access platform gives users a taste of what is included in the huge collection of some of the world’s most important works, including a Degas portrait of Mary Cassatt, an image of a Roman glass bottle dating back to 200 BC, the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, portraits of Pocahontas and Ida B. Wellsand images of Muhammad Ali’s boxing equipment and Amelia Earhart’s flight suit.
In the coming months, the Smithsonian will add another 200,000 images to the access platform and it will continue to digitize its vast database of more than 155 million items.
The Smithsonian is the newest organization that makes its image collection public; The Art Institute of Chicago, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the New York Public Library have made thousands of images public in recent years. Even media company Getty Images has made the vast majority of its photo collection available for free, creating a potential new income stream for its embedded images.
But the release of the Smithsonian collection of images is “unprecedented,” said Simon Tanner, an expert in digital cultural heritage at King’s College London, who advised the open access initiative. Smithsonian Magazine. “It opens up a much broader scope of content that crosses science and culture, space and time, in a way that no other collection has done, or could even do.”
The Smithsonian hopes that by making the images more accessible, the museums can be opened to a new audience. The collection is mentioned under a Creative Commons Zero license, which makes them free of republishing restrictions.