The Metropolitan Museum of Art unloaded a massive chunk of its collection into the public domain on Tuesday, making them available for anyone with an internet connection to use or simply appreciate.
As part of a new Open Access Policy, the Met designated 375,000 images with the Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal copyright, the broadest possible. Impressionist masters like Cézanne, Monet, and Degas, Japanse woodblock print artists like Hokusai, sculptors like Rodin, and thousands more are available for anyone to "copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission," according to the Creative Commons.
The Met has consolidated all of these images, along with those it believes to already be in the public doman, on their website for easy perusal and high-res download. These images were previously available to see, but downloads were restricted to non-commercial and academic use.
To help communities, the Met is working with Shared Shelf Commons, the Digital Public Library of America, the Google Cultural Institute, Wikimedia, and Pinterest. Richard Knipel has been enlisted as a Wikipedian in Residence, who will catalog metadata from the works in order to spread it through other digital avenues.
Other museums that have released portions of their collections to the public domain include the The Getty, The National Gallery of Art, LACMA, The Rijksmuseum, and The New York Public Library. Websites like Pond5 and Unsplash also work to gather photos, film clips, and other creative materials that are already in the public domain. This means that not only are many of the greatest artworks of all time already at our fingertips to distribute and remix, but greats without the name recognition of van Gogh or Rembrandt now have a platform to be discovered by those without the time to physically visit a particular museum.
If you can still visit the Met, though, you should: the newly released work represents only a fraction of the Met's entire collection, which consists of about 1.5 million individual artworks.
Peruse the Metropolitan Museum of Art's public domain directory here.