A picture of a statue taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

A photo of a statue taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo courtesy of Roger at Flickr Creative Commons.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art just uploaded 375,000 images to Creative Commons, meaning that the public can now use these images free-of-charge, without any copyright restrictions. The recently posted photos are part of an initiative called “Open Access.”

The idea is to grant students, teachers, historians, and journalists the right to use these images for educational purposes. Curators are hoping that it will foster more discussion around art, now that the images can be used by anyone.

But the Met isn’t the first museum to take on an initiative like this. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Yale Art Gallery, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. are just some of the many institutions that are making images available for public use.

But according to Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Met, no other museum has made this many images available to the public before. During a press conference, Campbell declared that the Met is now “the largest and most diverse open-access museum collection in the world.”

Loic Tallon, Chief Digital Officer at the Met, said that the Open Access program is “an exciting milestone in the Met’s digital evolution.”

Works that are now available include Washington Crossing the Delaware, a famous oil painting created in 1851 by Emmanuel Gottlieb. A photo of the Statue of Gudea has also been uploaded. Additionally, there are multiple pictures of the famous “Unicorn Tapestries,” which is one the Met’s most popular medieval European collections.

Curators are hoping that the Met’s Open Access Program will inspire other museums to follow in their lead. It would be of special interest to see if the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg will make a similar effort, given that these are two of the largest encyclopedic museums in the world.