Open Access in the World

Besides exploring all the wonders in the American Museums, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that many museums of the world have also granted open access. Especially since the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which was one of the first museums to allow access, started in 2011. The curators of the museum made this decision after finding 10,000 low quality scans online for one of the Vermeers in the collection. The Rijksmuseum offers more 208,000 images online at no cost, click here to search their collections.

The LACMA, the National Gallery of Arts and the Yale University Gallery followed suit quickly. Since then the J. Paul Getty Museum and the British Library have also opened their collections. To find out if a museum has open access, simply check their website for a logo which shows open access (such as a gold lock that is open.) Not all museums use the same symbol, but another telltale clue is to look for a download image button to provide guidance as well.

With the emergence of so many museums providing open access, some museums have elected to join in the fun, but only partway and provide “limited access.” Victoria & Albert Museum in London allows access for non-commercial use for up to five years for digital images. Many of the images in this blog were pulled from the V&A, a huge resource for textile and quilt research. Click here if you would like to search the V&A Collections.

A third category is “if available.” Some museums will provide you with a high-res photo if the item has already been photographed for other purposes. Those museums usually still request a form to be filled out, but it allows open access for research. Whatever the format of access, it is an amazing gift which should be used to the fullest extent possible. Have fun visiting the museums of the world from your computer!