As a photo editor I am constantly looking for new sources of imagery to help illustrate our books.
One of the more interesting developments in image research is the advent of public and private institutions opening up online some of their art collections under such terms as public domain, open content, or open access. High resolution digital images are being made available without restrictions and they may be used for any purpose. You do have to read the fine print as you will occasionally find disclaimers stating “this image may be subject to third party rights including rights of privacy and publicity, under applicable law.”
Why are museums, private collections, and government institutions opening up their collections in this manner? There are a growing number of institutions wanting to make information and images more readily available for scholars, publishers, entrepreneurs, art lovers, innovation, education, and research. The policies are meant to help people understand what inspires great works of art.
In applying public domain policies in a global digital environment, the institutions will surely expand their scholarly and education outreach. I am slightly biased about this but I think it’s a win-win for everyone, and I am sure we will see many more institutions following this approach. It’s going to be fun to see how it all shakes out.
(I do need to state the Library of Congress and the National Archives have long been leaders in the area of public domain information and imagery.)
Below are few examples of public domain, open content, or open access images from various institutions that I have been looking at lately.
Credit: Gift of Mrs. Robert Homans Accession No.1954.7.2/National Gallery of Art
Title: Abigail Smith Adams (Mrs. John Adams)
Artist: Gilbert Stuart 1755- 1828
Medium: oil on canvas