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Culture vultures can now swoop in and download 375,000 Met Museum images

Why it matters to you

The Met, which has previously faced criticism for being inaccessible, has made it easier than ever for the public to experience its beautiful works.

Underscoring the notion that art should be available to as broad a spectrum of the public as possible, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made its veritable treasure trove of stunning imagery available to the public. Earlier this week, the world-famous museum announced the adoption of a new policy — all images of public-domain artworks in the Museum’s collection would be made available for free and unrestricted use. This 375,000-piece-strong collection can now be used for both scholarly and commercial purposes, and the Met says that it is working with international partners to ensure global access to the collection.

“We have been working toward the goal of sharing our images with the public for a number of years. Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture and our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the announcement. “Increasing access to the Museum’s collection and scholarship serves the interests and needs of our 21st-century audiences by offering new resources for creativity, knowledge, and ideas.”

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Downloading images is about as easy as can be — simply go to the Met’s digital collection, and filter images by “Public Domain Artworks,” an option found on the lefthand side of your screen. Alternatively, you could look for the Creative Commons Zero designation at the bottom of an image.

“Sharing is fundamental to how we promote discovery, innovation, and collaboration in the digital age,” said Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, with whom the Met worked to make public its vast collection. “Today, The Met has given the world a profound gift in service of its mission: the largest encyclopedic art museum in North America has eliminated the barriers that would otherwise prohibit access to its content, and invited the world to use, remix, and share their public-domain collections widely and without restriction.”

The Met will also be partnering with a number of other organizations to ensure that as many people as possible are able to take advantage of its new open policy. Moving forward, the museum will be working alongside Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Artstor, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Art Resource, and Pinterest. The Met has also created a public GitHub repository.

So whether you need an image for your school presentation or to hang on your wall, check out the Met’s website for inspiration.