The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes 375,000 images of public domain art freely available under Creative Commons Zero

Photo by Arad, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Entrance to the Met. Photo by Arad, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, known by many as the Met, announced that it is placing more than 375,000 images of public-domain works in the museum’s collection under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) dedication. The release, which covers images of the great majority of the museum’s holdings, is part of the Met’s Open Access initiative and will enable anyone, anywhere to freely access, use, and remix photos of some of the world’s most well-known works of art.
Over the coming months, I will be working in close collaboration with the Met and the Wikimedia community as the museum’s first Wikimedian in Residence to make these images more readily available and integrated within the Wikimedia projects. While much of the Met’s collection are historical works in the public domain, the Met is now lifting any licensing restrictions on its own photography of these artworks, and unambiguously releasing them under CC0, so they can be used freely online. With the Met’s CC0 release today and updating of its licensing policy, images of the Met’s public domain artwork will be freely available online to be reused for any purpose, without restriction under copyright law.
Among the 375,000 newly copyright-free items are the Met’s images of Emanuel Leutze’s famous Washington Crossing the Delaware, a painting by Monet from his Water Lilies series, images and background on Robe à la Française (18th-century French attire), background on expertly carved jade from 3rd century B.C. China, and stunning fragments of a statue depicting an Egyptian queen from the 14th century B.C.
For now, it all begins with a little gold frog. A small gold pre-Columbian pendant of a tree frog from the 11–16th century is one of several dozen three-dimensional objects, like jewelry, clothing, furniture, and weapons, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata with the thoroughness of a museum and the openness of Wikipedia.  Small things can lead to serendipitous discoveries of opportunities and gaps in coverage—only when creating the Wikidata item for this little frog, did I find the culture that created it has an article only on Polish Wikipedia.
Photo via the Metropolitan Museum of Art, public domain/CC0.
Photo via the Metropolitan Museum of Art, public domain/CC0.

In my role as the Met’s Wikimedian in Residence, I will collaborate with other Wikimedians through projects like WikiProject Metropolitan Museum of Art to add newly available images to Wikimedia Commons, document each artwork’s metadata within Wikidata (the Wikimedia knowledge base that is used by all Wikimedia projects), and facilitate the writing of Wikipedia articles on major artworks and art topics in the collection. My ultimate goal is to “Wiki-fy the Met, and Met-ify the Wiki”, bringing together the complementary strengths of global community and institutional knowledge.
I plan to work with the Met to host online, multilingual edit-a-thons and partner with other Wikimedians and affiliate groups who can use the Met’s collections in their own contributions to the projects. We also plan to work with the Wikimedia technical community on new models of volunteer tools to improve art coverage on Wikidata and beyond, enabling broader utilization of Met collections throughout Wikimedia.
I’m looking forward to starting this work and continuing to work with the Wikimedia community and the Met on future collaborations. I hope the Met’s historic contribution inspires other GLAM institutions (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) around the world to open up their collections to the world and make them freely available for everyone to learn from, enjoy, and share freely.
Richard Knipel, Wikimedian-in-Residence
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

You can read updates to this piece from July 2017 (Wikimedia Blog) and February 2018 (Met Museum blog).

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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That excellent news. I am most interested in any 19th/early 20th century paintings. Will I be able to use the images as illustrations forcmy posts on classical music? What should the credits in the caption be? Thank you.

[…] “Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, known by many as the Met, announced that it is placing more than 375,000 images of public-domain works in the museum’s collection under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) dedication. The release, which covers images of the great majority of the museum’s holdings, is part of the Met’s Open Access initiative and will enable anyone, anywhere to freely access, use, and remix photos of some of the world’s most well-known works of art.” (via Wikimedia Blog) […]

This is a wonderful resource for art lovers everywhere.

[…] Metropolitan Museum of Art has just released 375,000 images of public domain artworks with a CC0 license. “The release, which covers images of the great majority of the museum’s holdings, is part […]

This brings tears to my eyes – honest! This is wildly important to education everywhere. Thank you to everyone who made this a reality.

So exciting and so many years in the making. Thank you Richard and Wikimedia NYC for planting the seed, watering the flower, and finding a frog 🙂

Wow, this is amazing news!!

Wonderful! 🙂

[…] The Met will utilize a Wikimedian in Residence to expertly place those images into Wikimedia. Read at Wikimedia and at Creative […]

Excellent news. Kudos to everyone who made this possible.

[…] Knipel, the museum’s first “Wikimedian in Residence,” wrote a terrific blog post that gives a bit more detail about the ongoing project, part of the museum’s new Open Access […]

[…] Met has teamed up with Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Artstor, Digital Public Library of America, Art Resource, and Pinterest to host and maximize the […]

[…] Lange; and even some Vincent van Gogh paintings. The Met has teamed up with Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Artstor, Digital Public Library of America, Art Resource, and Pinterest to host and maximize the […]

Brilliant. Leveraging these resources throughout UCLA would be wonderful.

[…] Knipel, the museum’s first “Wikimedian in Residence,” wrote a terrific blog post that gives a bit more detail about the ongoing project, part of the museum’s new Open Access […]

That is such a wonderful idea. I grew up in Brooklyn NY and remember going to the museum on school trips. Those were some of the best trips that I went on as a kid. I enjoyed all the different museums we had in NYC. I also enjoyed the Hayden Planetarium.

[…] Knipel, the museum’s first “Wikimedian in Residence,” wrote a terrific blog post that gives a bit more detail about the ongoing project, part of the museum’s new Open Access […]

Um, their exact pictures of public domain images were themselves already public domain. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp
So the real news is: The Met isn’t committing copyfraud (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyfraud) by attempting to invoke a nonexistent copyright over public domain images. In other news, no one picks up on or comments about this aspect and treats it like a gift. Full store at 11…

[…] Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, known by many as the Met, announced that it is placing more than 375,000 images of public-domain works in the museum’s collection under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) dedication. The release, which covers images of the great majority of the museum’s holdings, is part of the Met’s Open Access initiative and will enable anyone, anywhere to freely access, use, and remix photos of some of the world’s most well-known works of art… More at Wikimedia. […]

Hi, great news indeed! why publish photo’s of 2D works under CC-0 though? That’s simply PD, no copyright can be claimed over reproductions of 2D works (?)

[…] Metropolitan Museum of Art has just released 375,000 images of public domain artworks with a CC0 license. “The release, which covers images of the great majority of the museum’s holdings, is part […]

Great news!

[…] The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes 375,000 images of public domain art freely available under Creative Commons Zero – Wikimedia Bloghttps://diff.wikimedia.org/2017/02/07/the-met-public-art-creative-commons/ […]

[…] Metropolitan Museum of Art,2017年2月8日23:25(JST)閲覧. Richard Knipel(2017)”The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes 375,000 images of public domain art freely available under Crea…“,Wikimedia […]

[…] to ensure that images are easily available, and integrate well into Wikimedia projects. A post by Richard Knipel (President at Wikimedia New York City, and now Wikimedian-in-Residence at the […]

[…] muzeum umění uvolnilo 375 tisíc fotografií volných děl pod licencí Creative Commons CC0, tj. fotografie lze […]

This is fantastic! Will we be able to use these images in TV or movies?

Very sad news. This is going to effect the income generating ability of other museums and gallerias around the world who rely on generating important and sometimes significant income from the licensing of images of their collection especially where there is overlap in their collection and MET’s. Many are not in the privileged position of the MET and have to generate income to support the work of the museum etc as a whole. Licencing images of their collection is one way. This is very much the case in the UK where galleries and museums are free and can’t rely on… Read more »

So exciting! The museum is one of my favorite places in NYC. I’m so happy to be able to have access to these beautiful images and I’m glad the MMA is sharing with the rest of the world .

[…] Knipel, the museum’s first “Wikimedian in Residence,” wrote a terrific blog post that gives a bit more detail about the ongoing project, part of the museum’s new Open Access […]

So sorry Clive, but Copyfraud isn’t a valid fundraising strategy and never has been. For a museum or any other institution to claim that artistic creations over a thousand years old are under current copyright is simply ridiculous, glad the Met has finally stopped doing so. For those of us wanting to do research on older artworks to make quality reproductions this is a Godsend, perhaps if you want to raise funds for museums you could contribute directly, as do I and others interested in history. Read more about copyfraud involving public domain images and info here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyfraud

Good for you, the Met, and art lovers/ students everywhere. That gold tree frog looks more like Diquis gold work.

[…] Pinterest y Wikimedia para llevar a cabo acciones conjuntas y que se difunda y aproveche: “Wikify The Met, and Metify the Wiki.“ Esto sí es una política de liberación y dinamización de un museo, aprovechando su acervo […]

There should be an effort to train teachers at all levels to creatively use these images. I would love to be a part of an advisory committee to help educations in many different fields use these images. I have a Ph.D. from the U. of Michigan School of Education and have been a consultant to schools nationwide. How can we get something like this started? Dr. Judith Guskin

Thank you so much for making these images available to the world!