Not long ago, I went over to the Getty to see the J. Paul Getty Trust’s President and CEO James Cuno in live conversation with Pico Iyer, one of his favorite writers as well as one of mine. Cuno, himself the author of books like Whose Culture?: The Promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities and Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum, impressed me not only with his choice of interlocutors but with the open, forward-thinking nature he revealed during the talk. On Monday, he demonstrated it again by publishing another piece of writing, very brief but undeniably important: his announcement of the Getty’s Open Content Program, which has just made available over 4600 high-resolution images of the museum’s collection freely available in the public domain. You can download them, modify them, distribute them — do what you please with them.
“Why open content? Why now?” Cuno writes. “The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief. This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity.” If you enjoy engaging in any of these pursuits — which, as an Open Culture habitué, I assume you do — begin by browsing all the Open Content Program’s currently available images, or check for download links on individual Getty collection pages. This post includes three images straight from the Getty: Rembrandt’s The Abduction of Europa, Walker Evans’ A Bench in the Bronx on Sunday, and a helmet of Chalcidian type circa 350–300 B.C. Cuno promises many more images to come, and material from other sources like the Getty’s international field projects. He’s got my anticipation.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.