The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

manet met

On Friday, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that “more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use.” Even better, the images can be used at no charge (and without getting permission from the museum). In making this announcement, the Met joined other world-class museums in putting put large troves of digital art online. Witness the  87,000 images from the Getty in L.A., the 125,000 Dutch masterpieces from the Rijksmuseumthe 35,000 artistic images from the National Gallery, and the 57,000 works of art on Google Art Project.

rembrandt self portrait

The Met’s online initiative is dubbed “Open Access for Scholarly Content,” and, while surfing the Met’s digital collections, you’ll know if a particular work is free to download if it bears the “OASC” acronym. In an FAQ, the Met provides these simple instructions.

How can I identify the Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) on the Met’s website?
Look for this icon Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) Icon below images in the Collections section of the website to identify images that are part of the OASC initiative.

How do I download an image designated for Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)?
Look for this icon Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) Icon below the image in the Collections section of this website, then click on the download icon next to it Download Icon to save the image to your desktop or device.

It takes a little patience. But once you start surfing through the digital collections, you can find and download images of some wonderful masterpieces. We’ve embedded a few of our favorite picks.  At the top, you will find the 1874 painting “Boating,” by Édouard Manet. In the middle, Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait” from 1660. At the bottom, a 1907 photograph by Alfred Stieglitz called “The Steerage.”  And that’s just starting to scratch the surface.

Happy rummaging. And, when you have some free time on your hands, you should also check out another open initiative from the Met. In 2012, the museum put 396 free art catalogs online. You can learn about them here.

via Kottke

the steerage

Related Content:

Download Hundreds of Free Art Catalogs from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Download Over 250 Free Art Books From the Getty Museum

LA County Museum Makes 20,000 Artistic Images Available for Free Download

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Comments (35)
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  • RachelB. says:

    These pictures are NOT high resolution. They are at most 150 dpi which is not acceptable for digital publishing (i.e. book covers).

  • Michele Nelson says:

    This is wonderful news.
    Actually, these images ARE high-resolution.
    For example, the .jpg file for “Boating” by Édouard Manet is 1311 x 2878 pixels. This comes out to 12.7 x 9.5 inches at 300 dpi, which really should be large enough for most digital printing needs, including book covers.

  • FrankThinnes says:

    When I saw the title of your article on twitter, I first thought, Yeah, great, finally! But unfortunately the title of the article is misleading, because the images are not free to use – they are just free to use under specific conditions. It is not much of a bold step to allow the reuse for educational and non-commercial use.
    Hence you cannot compare the MOMA with the Rijksmuseum or the National Gallery, which allow free reuse of their items for any purpose, without restriction. That is boldness.

  • FrankThinnes says:

    btw. I meant the MET.
    posting messages when not having had the first coffee is dangerous 😉

  • Michelle D. says:

    The free downloadable images are intended for non-commercial use. Book covers are a commercial use.

  • bailey karr says:

    thank you what a wonderful gift

  • Donna Hatch, romance author says:

    Is it okay to use the images for blog postings?

  • germaine says:


  • RachelB. says:

    Michele, 150 dpi is NOT high resolution. The minimum for high-resolution is 300 dpi.

  • NickJ says:

    Curious: since the US declared a photograph of artwork is not new work warranting its own copyright, and these works are all public domain, by what legal basis is the MET limiting use of the images for commercial endeavors? These do not appear sufficiently modified to warrant new copyright protection as a derivative work. public domain is public domain… They base the restriction they’re imposing on their website Terms of Service, but I think they’re imposing a restriction they have no basis to impose.

  • NickJ says:

    ok, to follow: if their ToS constitute an agreement between themselves and their users, then it may be construed that they have a legal agreement with their users, and that those users agree to the non-commercial terms specified by the ToS. the digital photographs are their property, and they set up an agreed limited use not based on copyright, but on the personal contract (the ToS) between the website and the user. However, there is no restriction on non-commercial transfer or subsequent copy. And there is no agreement between a 3rd party recipient and the website. Assuming an ‘honest’ (under the ToS) 3rd party transfer, where the 3rd party (or a later 4th party, etc.) decides to make later commercial use of the images, there appears to be no legal restriction. *IANAL, but it makes sense*

  • Liam says:

    As NickJ points out, now that these images have been released, they may be used for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial despite the Met’s ability to bluff people into thinking otherwise.

    According to the landmark federal district court ruling in Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp, “exact reproductions of public domain artworks are not protected by copyright.”

    A browser-wrap adhesion contract does not change the unprotected copyright status of the works and their subsequent exact reproductions. Such an adhesion contract also does not affect your statutory rights. Like many instances of liability disclaimers and scarily-worded legalese, they are merely bluffing.


  • josiah says:

    The Met has had high resolution images on their site for years. And while they’re promoting their “OASC” images as some sort of great new thing, they’ve actually backtracked and removed thousands of high-resolution images that used to be freely available on their website. I downloaded specific images of artworks from the Met website a year ago, or less, that are no longer available as anything other than a small, lo-res placeholder. Don’t be fooled by these false proclamations of openness— they HAD open access to thousands of images which they’ve systematically removed, probably thanks to their lawyers and the execrable “Artist’s Rights Society”, which is in my opinion mostly mechanism to allow the estates and relatives of dead artists to cash in on someone else’s legacy.

  • josiah says:

    Someone needs to ask the Met why they’ve decided to remove access to such a large part of their database of partially publicly-funded images. As soon as they started to aggressively push “social media”, and litter their pages with Pinterest and Facebook logos, I knew the hammer was about to drop on what had been a great resource of images for research and pleasure.

  • michel says:

    josiah: so who should “cash in”” on it? Strangers? Artists have a right to leave their equity to their descendants, as much as anyone else.

  • Xabier de sousa alonso says:

    Me gustaría presentar un proyecto para exponer. Mi campo es la obra gráfica. Saludos

  • Justin says:

    It’s funny because, the people complaining that the images are only 150 dpi are downloading the images in this article thinking those are the images they’re to use. They aren’t clicking the links and going to the actual site where the resources are located.

    I’m not throwing insults here, because its not necessary.

  • Joe says:

    Welcome to the world as it is today.

    Great masterworks. Expressions of joyous (and sometimes torturous) creativity. And the discussion immediately devolves into legal wrangling.

    So sad…

  • Graham says:

    I’m with Joe on this one. Immediately and completely legal/commercial concern. Very sad indeed.

  • Thania says:

    I’m with Joe and Graham. Why can’t we just appreciate?

  • C. Brown says:

    Wonderful news,as a visual arts educator for 33+ years,this would have been a valuable resource for Art History lessons. With budget restraints, buying prints, etc was impossible. I thank you and current Fine Arts Educators will thank you too!

  • Jan says:

    Where are the 70,000 high-res images referred to on the web? It’s not apparent on your website where to find them.

  • Kathryn Bemrose says:

    please send your images on to me,if that is how I get to see them

  • Edward says:

    These images are not high resolution. The preferred high resolution dpi for inkjet printers is now 360 (with 300 being the baseline).

    Michele Nelson, having to shrink the image to a thumbnail to attain a baseline hi res dpi is not what people expect when told they are being given free high resolution images.

    What if people would like to use a small zoomed in portion of the painting at high resolution? It would not be possible.

    Justin, the images on the website are 150 dpi.

    Of course, this is probably an issue of bandwidth. The website would become very expensive to run, and take a long time to load, if they uploaded full sized paintings at 300 dpi.

    They should just shrink the images and advertise they are giving small high resolution images for free.

    As is, it is misleading, but then again, nothing is free.

  • Andrew Macaskill says:

    I downloaded Renoir’s “A Young Girl with Daisies”. Opened in Photoshop and it’s 3095 x 3711 pixels in size. Change the resolution to 300 pixels/inch without resampling and it will print at 10.3 in x 12.3 in. In my humble opinion that is a high resolution image.

  • Cesar Alsina says:

    Michelle, if you want to print a 12 x 9 inches piece at 300 dpi, you will need a digital file that measures 3600 pixels by 2700 pixels. Multiply your inches by dpi (i.e. 12 x 300 = 3600) and you will get the right formula for printing!

  • Plathrop says:

    Who are all you cranky people looking a gift horse in the mouth?

    The museum has published what is fundamentally an educational resource. Not every person who has access to the internet has the opportunity to travel to large cities to see big art collections. The ability to peruse “digital” collections provides a significant boost to art appreciation, art history studies and just plain enjoyment.

  • Vince I. says:

    Thank you! This is a marvelous, rich, and generous undertaking that will make a big difference in bringing quality art to everyone. Few of us can travel to NYC at will to see a particular work of art. You have given us all an opportunity to enjoy and to share some of art’s great masterworks. My wish for families is that we will embrace this lovely gift to bring beauty to our lives – especially to our children. Thank you!

  • Camhi Nina says:

    Thank you for your wonderfull gift.

  • James says:

    Whilst i agree the tone and quantity of negative comments has maybe distracted from any nice part of this story, I wouldn’t say these are cranky people, just rightfully picking up on the broadly misleading title of this article. Specifically, I don’t see anyone saying what they have done is not valuable, other than the issue of whether they have removed a large number of images that were previously available, as seems to be the case.

    Put this another way, if you saw your public library suddenly advertising ‘borrow thousands of films for free’ but when you went in a lot of the ones they used to have were missing, and you could only borrow them if you came from one sector of society, and when you did get them home you could only really watch them on your small screen TV and not your widescreen, how happy would you be?

  • Mike says:

    Nice idea, and to be applauded.

    How can you claim copyright to images in the public domain? Face, most of these pieces were created by other people and any copyrights at all have lapsed putting the work into the public domain. Just because you photographed it doesn’t change that.

  • Merrie Ritter says:

    Thank you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art! And thank you, OpenCulture, for letting us know about it!

  • freycabading says:

    This good to know!
    Thank you

  • Carol Klahn says:

    Having been a public school art instructor during the dark ages of analog art reproductions and slide carousels, I can’t agree more that those who are nitpicking the details of this are just cranky. Imagine a world where serious art students studied rows of 35 mm slides on light tables in dark hallways outside art history classrooms. Lowly art teachers like me taught using posters we bought (with our own money) in museum bookstores. And that was just twenty years ago. The scope of images available now is unbelievably rich. It is a wondrous renaissance. Stop complaining and dig in.

  • Grace Brannigan says:

    Yes! Rijksmuseum Amsterdam let’s you use their images commercially. They just request attribution and that you send them a copy of how you’re using them. I have some images in some of my books which are now on their way to them.

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