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The Art Institute of Chicago opens access to thousands of its images

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It is the latest museum that allows viewers to download its 44,313 images or see them in close detail. The release is part of the museum’s website redesign and the images have been made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

It implies that the museum waives all rights to the paintings throughout the world, and those who wish can copy, modify, distribute and execute the artwork even for commercial purposes without asking permission.
The Art Institute of Chicago has also enhanced the image viewing capabilities on the works, allowing them to be seen in far greater detail than before, for example. «Check out the paint strokes in Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, the charcoal details on Charles White’s Harvest Talk, or the synaesthetic richness of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Blue and Green Music," wrote executive creative director Michael Neault a blog post.
Neault says if you’re doing research, «you'll appreciate how our collections search tool makes it easier to drill down and find exactly what you’re looking for.»
Screenshot of the search page on the website of the Institute of Art in Chicago
Georges Seurat. Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte
Georges Seurat
1886, 207.5×308.1 cm
Gustave Caillebotte. Rue de Paris, Temps de Pluie, etude (Paris Street, Rainy Day, sketch)
Georgia O'Keeffe. Cow skull and calico roses
Georgia O'Keeffe
1931, 91.4×61 cm
Mary Cassatte. Baby bathing
Mary Cassatte
1893, 100×66.1 cm
Claude Monet. Wheat stacks (End of summer)
Claude Monet
1891, 60×100 cm
Rene Magritte. Time Transfixed
Rene Magritte
1938, 147×99 cm
Blogger and art historian Bendor Grosvenor, an advocate for open image access who has criticized UK institutions for their image fees, praised the move in an Art History News blog post. But while institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago «can afford to do this because they charge for entry," he says, UK museums have the added financial burden of supporting free entry to visitors.
Grant Wood. American Gothic
American Gothic
1930, 78×65.3 cm
«But not all open access museums charge for entry,» Grosvenor writes. «The National Museum in Sweden, which makes thousands of its images open access, has now introduced free entry. So it is in fact possible to have both free physical entry, and free digital entry.»
The Metropolitan Museum of Art made all of the public domain works in its collection available online for both scholarly and commercial purposes in February 2017. Within just six months, the museum reported about encouraging results: the Met’s website saw a 64 percent increase in image downloads and a 17 percent spike in traffic to the online collection. Users who downloaded photographs were reportedly spending five times as long on the site.
Based on materials from Artnet

Title illustration: Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom (1889). Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection. The Art Institute of Chicago

Artists mentioned in the article
Vincent van Gogh
Biography • Artworks
Georges Seurat
Biography • Artworks
Claude Monet
Biography • Artworks
Georgia O'Keeffe
Biography • Artworks
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