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The Met Makes 400,000 Works of Art Free to Download

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A crop of Gerard David's "The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard" Credit:

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New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—or the Met, as it’s commonly known—will release more than 400,000 high-resolution images of works of art to the public domain. That means they can be downloaded and used for non-commercial purposes by anyone with an internet connection. No permission required.

The project is dubbed “Open Access for Scholarly Content,” and the museum says it will continue to add more digital files on a regular basis. It's a reflection of the Met’s belief that these artworks deserve to be enjoyed and studied by students, educators, artists, and researchers all over the world, whether they can visit New York or not.

In an announcement last week, Met director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell explained how the Met is joining a number of other museums in providing this kind of unrestricted access. The museum's online collection can be filtered by date, geographic location, artist, or even method.

The collection can be filtered by date, geographic location, artist, or even method.

“Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain,” Campbell said. “I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection.”

Crucially, many of the 400,000 works are not actually on display at the Met. They're among the innumerable pieces hidden away in storage, so the OASC initiative provides a rare chance to view them. Visitors can download a high-res version (generally 10 megapixels or larger) of any photo with an OASC logo.