Posted by: bluesyemre | January 24, 2019

#ClevelandMuseumofArt launches next-generation #OpenAccess to artworks and data online


The Cleveland Museum of Art festooned its main facade in 2017 with the words from its original Jeptha Wade deed stating the institution is “for the benefit of all the people forever.” The museum said Wednesday that its new digital Open Access program is a way of bringing its mission – and Wade’s words – into the 21st century. Photo: Howard Agriesti

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Museum of Art today is joining a handful of leading American art museums offering unlimited online access to images and information about works of art in its permanent collection.

The museum announced it is waiving digital rights to roughly 30,000 of the 61,328 objects in its permanent collection considered to be in the public domain. The designation applies generally to works by artists who have been dead for at least 120 years.

The museum hopes to engage a vast new online audience around the world. It will disseminate images of artworks for use by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose, even if it doesn’t get credit.

The new initiative “will expose millions of virtual visitors to a collection to which they would have previously had limited access,” William Griswold, the museum’s director, said in an interview. “They can borrow from it and do whatever they like with those images, and for me, that’s hugely exciting.’’

He said the museum’s “Open Access” program is a way to bring its mission of creating “transformative experiences through art, ‘for the benefit of all the people forever’ ” into the 21st century. The mission statement quotes the words used by benefactor Jeptha Wade II in 1892 to deed land to the museum.

To show the potential of its Open Access program, the museum engaged with partners including Microsoft, the website Artsy, Wikimedia, Case Western Reserve University and American Greetings.

Microsoft’s Azure Search software will enable more accurate location and sorting of images and data on the museum’s website the museum said.

CWRU’s Interactive Commons will create a mixed-reality gallery using Microsoft’s HoloLens enabling wearers to explore a virtual gallery together.

Hyland, a software provider based in Westlake, will also develop an augmented reality application visible through a Microsoft HoloLens enabling users to place holographic images of artworks into the physical space around them.

And artists at American Greetings created mash-up collages and humorous greeting cards using images of artworks in the museum’s collection.

To date, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York have offered access to permanent collection artworks through Creative Commons Zero, which the Cleveland museum describes as the most liberal way to “un-license” artworks.

Creative Commons is a California-based nonprofit organization that offers “free, easy-to-use copyright licenses to make a simple and standardized way to give the public permission to share and use” creative work, its website says.

In joining the open access movement, the Cleveland museum said it is jumping ahead of peers in several ways.

It is offering especially large digital image “TIF” files online for unlimited free use, along with extensive data about artworks and special searching and downloading tools. Smaller JPG files are also available.

The tools include what the museum calls “a fully operable application programming interface (API)” on its own website, and access to collection data in specialized digital formats through an online repository at

The museum’s open access program includes large amounts of data on the description, provenance, exhibition history and other aspects of an artwork’s history.

The museum plans to populate as many as 35 fields of information about individual artworks, including those whose images may not be licensed because they have not entered the public domain.

“It’s not just the next step, it’s a big step,” said arts consultant Neal Stimler, who led the Metropolitan museum’s open access initiative, which debuted in 2017.

He said the Cleveland museum was building on a tradition of digital innovation that includes the 40-foot interactive Collection Wall in its Gallery One and its ArtLens mobile app, both of which debuted in 2013.

Images of works in the Cleveland Museum of Art collection could be used for commercial purposes without any acknowledgement.

But Griswold said he believes that sharing images without restriction will ultimately benefit the museum by drawing attention to its collection.

Stimler said “it’s better not to constrain the freedom of others unduly through a legal tool,’’ and that “oftentimes, people want to share and give credit where credit is due.”

The museum has said that its collection contains roughly 45,000 objects, but it increased the number to 61,328 to include the number of objects within series that had been counted as a single work, Griswold said.

Griswold said he believed that widespread sharing of high quality digital images would increase the desire to see the original artworks in the flesh, in Cleveland.

“There’s no substitute for the original,” he said.

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