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

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.

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 sim­ple instruc­tions on how to fig­ure that all out.

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.

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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 (52)
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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.

  • Brock Krpan says:

    How do you trans­late pix­els to dpi to inch dimen­sions?

  • Greg McDonald says:

    If you want to do some­thing real­ly nice for me, please tell me the truth in describ­ing it. Please don’t promise me the moon then pro­duce only moon dust (which would be a very valu­able gift, just not the moon you promised me) — espe­cial­ly if I am a teacher on a very tight bud­get. Let me know the truth up front so I won’t be run­ning around con­fused, with plans that have to be adjust­ed down from your first pho­ny announce­ment. As we can see here, there are many who are delight­ed with the short­changed gift. And what about pub­lic­i­ty? Did you make big promis­es of high res­o­lu­tion to draw lots of favor­able atten­tion then qui­et­ly choke it down to low res­o­lu­tion to manip­u­late your pub­lic image? Did you use me like that?

    • Dan Colman says:


      The Met them­selves announced that the images are in high res. See their press release below. And I guess you can take up the argu­ment with them.

      When I looked at images in the col­lec­tion, they were very pix­el rich. But maybe your def­i­n­i­tion of high res is dif­fer­ent from oth­ers…


      New Web Pro­gram Allows Free Image Down­load for Non-Com­mer­cial Use

      (New York, May 16, 2014)—Thomas P. Camp­bell, Direc­tor and CEO of The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, announced today 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—including in schol­ar­ly pub­li­ca­tions in any media—without per­mis­sion from the Muse­um and with­out a fee. The num­ber of avail­able images will increase as new dig­i­tal files are added on a reg­u­lar basis.

      See remain­der here

  • Andrew says:

    Why are pho­tographs such as the Stieglitz above no longer avail­able to down­load? The link above is no good, but I found it in a search here:

    There is no OASC or down­load link avail­able on the page.

  • I’mal­soa­nartis­tan­it’s­nice­learnin

  • Rick says:

    High­tech room

  • vikram rajpurohit says:

    please help me i want vis­sa and tick­et so help me i am poor­man my home con­di­tion is very bad no father no moth­er i allone job post tea cof­fee lunch din­ner break­fast job take it my mobles and what­sapp no 919001241615
    my adress is choud­hary niwas uots­ingh rajpuro­hit tasil bali dist pali state rajasthan coun­try india please help me god bless you my freind broth­er allow you help me vis­sa and tick­et call me urgent­ly thank you

  • Anne Strong says:

    This is great news for researchers and stu­dents, but every­one else shoudl be care­ful! At His­to­ry Asso­ciates, we use a spe­cif­ic method­ol­o­gy when deal­ing with licens­ing his­tor­i­cal images — this infom­ra­tion may be use­ful to oth­er researchers deal­ing with the com­pli­cat­ed process of obtain­ing his­tor­i­cal image copy­right data:

  • Angela H Evans says:

    This is an Amaz­ing Lega­cy to the new­er Gen­er­a­tions ‑and for the Old­er ones a n oppor­tu­ni­ty to see / read about things that we could only dream about.If only ALL the world was like.

    Thank you form a hum­ble me!

  • donald j trump says:

    please help me i want vis­sa and tick­et to rus­sia so help me i am poor­man my home con­di­tion is very bad no father no moth­er i allone job post tea cof­fee lunch din­ner break­fast job take it my mobles and what­sapp no 2024561111 or twit­ter @potus
    my adress is 1600 penn­syl­va­nia ave nw wash­ing­ton dc 20500 usa please help me god bless you my freind broth­er allow you help me vis­sa and tick­et call me urgent­ly thank you

  • D Dawson says:

    So exact­ly where on this web­site is a link to all these won­der­ful images?

  • Jan Devos says:

    txest tets

  • Jesse Lepkoff says:

    I am look­ing for high res­o­lu­tion down­load­able paint­ings and engrav­ings of baroque musi­cians play­ing music.
    thank You

  • Anon says:


    The prob­lem is call­ing it pub­lic domain. It is def­i­nite­ly NOT pub­lic domain if you can’t use it for com­mer­cial pur­pos­es.

    They might do this to mud­dy the waters about what pub­lic domain real­ly is.

    Pub­lic domain means you can use it as you wish, com­mer­cial use includ­ed. This looks like an attempt to change the nar­ra­tive before attempt­ing to change the law.

  • Anon says:

    For those declar­ing “150DPI IS NOT high qual­i­ty”: the DPI of an image is mean­ing­less in this con­text.

    Look at the pix­el dimen­sions of the image. This will tell you whether or not you’ll be able to get a ‘good’ print at the size you want.

    A 3000px wide image print­ed at 300DPI will result in a print 10″ across.

    Of course, if you’re look­ing at a print from 3m away, you could prob­a­bly print the 3000px wide image at 30″ and see no notice­able pix­i­la­tion!

  • Paul says:

    @Michele Nel­son

    “or 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”

    This is a good exam­ple of why peo­ple should not drop out of grade school. Yikes.
    1311/300 = 4.37 inch @ 300dpi
    2878/300 = 9.59 inch @ 300dpi

    Where are you get­ting 12.7 x 9.5? Did you have a stroke while post­ing that? I hope you recov­ered in 6 years.

    These res­o­lu­tions are NOT high res­o­lu­tion. For video maybe, but these are still images. These are stan­dard sizes for post­cards, not book/poster prints. Kin­da weird as even in 2014 a stan­dard con­sumer DSLR would get you 20MP. Why even both­er with this with such low qual­i­ty?

  • Ohmo says:

    Frank­Thinnes, Works in the pub­lic domain, as are all these images, can­not be copy­right pro­tect­ed. The Met can­not legal­ly pre­vent any­one from copy­ing or using these images for any rea­son they like. You can copy and use the images, but not oth­er mate­r­i­al from the web­site.

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