The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the grand European museums. Home to many of the Dutch masters (Rembrandt’s Night Watch, which seems to glow from its center, and Vermeer’s Milkmaid, to name just a few), the museum is located on the city’s Museumplein, surrounded by the smaller Vincent Van Gogh museum and modern Stedelijk.
All those masterpieces are now available for close-up view online at the Rijksmuseum's digitized collection. Users can explore the entire collection, which is handily sorted by artist, subject, style and even by events in Dutch history. The new digital archive has all the same great learning potential as any other online collection. It's searchable, as is the museum's library.
But the Dutch are a whimsical people, so it seems right that, in digitizing its collection, the museum went a step further than further. Not only can users create their own online galleries from selected works in the museum’s collection, they can download Rijksmuseum artwork for free to decorate new products. (Note: users will need to create a free account to get started.)
By visiting the museum's Rijksstudio, art lovers can create their own “sets” of Rijksmuseum works. Sets can include images of just flowers (think of the luscious roses and tulips in Dutch still life paintings of the 1600s), faces appearing in portraits, or paintings of Amsterdam itself through the ages. Just select a work of art and drop it into your own image collection. Then use these selected images to create your own personalized products. From tattoos to wallpaper to scooters (yes, scooters) to smart phone skins. Unusual yet everyday items of all shapes and sizes can now bear the image of gorgeous art. The art is free and the object could be as simple as a T-shirt.
All of this can be done with the blessings and support of the museum, which provides links to sites that offer various forms of printing on demand.
What better way to make the collection accessible to the public? Some might say it is sacrilege to put Rembrandt’s face on the side of a van; the Rijksmuseum encourages it. None of the artists are alive anyway to claim copyright infringement, now are they?
Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Read more of her work at and thenifty.blogspot.com.