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Rosetta Stone

Since the first stir­rings of the inter­net, artists and cura­tors have puz­zled over what the flu­id­i­ty of online space would do to the expe­ri­ence of view­ing works of art. At a con­fer­ence on the sub­ject in 2001, Susan Haz­an of the Israel Muse­um won­dered whether there is “space for enchant­ment in a tech­no­log­i­cal world?” She referred to Wal­ter Benjamin’s rumi­na­tions on the “poten­tial­ly lib­er­at­ing phe­nom­e­non” of tech­no­log­i­cal­ly repro­duced art, yet also not­ed that “what was for­feit­ed in this process were the ‘aura’ and the author­i­ty of the object con­tain­ing with­in it the val­ues of cul­tur­al her­itage and tra­di­tion.” Eval­u­at­ing a num­ber of online gal­leries of the time, Haz­an found that “the speed with which we are able to access remote muse­ums and pull them up side by side on the screen is alarm­ing­ly imme­di­ate.” Per­haps the “accel­er­at­ed mobil­i­ty” of the inter­net, she wor­ried, “caus­es objects to become dis­pos­able and to decline in sig­nif­i­cance.”


Fif­teen years after her essay, the num­ber of muse­ums that have made their col­lec­tions avail­able online whole, or in part, has grown expo­nen­tial­ly and shows no signs of slow­ing. We may not need to fear los­ing muse­ums and libraries—important spaces that Michel Fou­cault called “het­ero­topias,” where lin­ear, mun­dane time is inter­rupt­ed. These spaces will like­ly always exist. Yet increas­ing­ly we need nev­er vis­it them in per­son to view most of their con­tents. Stu­dents and aca­d­e­mics can con­duct near­ly all of their research through the inter­net, nev­er hav­ing to trav­el to the Bodleian, the Bei­necke, or the British Library. And lovers of art must no longer shell out for plane tick­ets and hotels to see the pre­cious con­tents of the Get­ty, the Guggen­heim, or the Rijksmu­se­um. For all that may be lost, online gal­leries have long been “mak­ing works of art wide­ly avail­able, intro­duc­ing new forms of per­cep­tion in film and pho­tog­ra­phy and allow­ing art to move from pri­vate to pub­lic, from the elite to the mass­es.”


Even more so than when Haz­an wrote those words, the online world offers pos­si­bil­i­ties for “the emer­gence of new cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­na, the vir­tu­al aura.” Over the years we have fea­tured dozens of data­bas­es, archives, and online gal­leries through which you might vir­tu­al­ly expe­ri­ence art the world over, an expe­ri­ence once sole­ly reserved for only the very wealthy. And as artists and cura­tors adapt to a dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment, they find new ways to make vir­tu­al gal­leries enchant­i­ng. The vast col­lec­tions in the vir­tu­al gal­leries list­ed below await your vis­it, with close to 2,000,000 paint­ings, sculp­tures, pho­tographs, books, and more. See the Roset­ta Stone at the British Muse­um (top), cour­tesy of the Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute. See Van Gogh’s many self-por­traits and vivid, swirling land­scapes at The Van Gogh Muse­um. Vis­it the Asian art col­lec­tion at the Smith­so­ni­an’s Freer and Sack­ler Gal­leries. Or see Vass­i­ly Kandin­sky’s daz­zling abstract com­po­si­tions at the Guggen­heim.

And below the list of gal­leries, find links to online col­lec­tions of sev­er­al hun­dred art books to read online or down­load. Con­tin­ue to watch this space: We’ll add to both of these lists as more and more col­lec­tions come online.

Art Images from Muse­ums & Libraries

Art Books

Relat­ed Con­tents:

Down­load 448 Free Art Books from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

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

Free: The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and the Guggen­heim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • AlexO says:

    Too many! The inter­net seems unlim­it­ed. Time isn’t. ;-)

  • Victoria says:

    Auck­land Muse­um, NZ (60,000)

  • Allene King says:

    I need o see some paint­ings by Geor­gia O’Ke­effe for a project. How do I do a search? He one at the top of the page is not work­ing for me

  • Dorothy Shinn says:

    And yet, noth­ing can com­pare to the impact of the actu­al work of art seen in per­son. An image on a com­put­er screen tells us noth­ing about size, tex­ture, dimen­sion­al­i­ty, cur­rent con­di­tion or phys­i­cal pres­ence of the art work. The inter­net is mere­ly a tool, not a sub­sti­tute for per­son­al expe­ri­ence.

  • Ian Graves says:

    I am a young teenag­er no mon­ey but would like to know more about I love to draw and am real­ly good( my Dad and Aunt says so). My Dad went to art col­lege in Toron­to and my aunt is an artist, still tak­ing lessons from a won­der­ful marine artist of many years
    I need to get into an artist com­mu­ni­ty and find my niche and need some inspi­ra­tion .
    Ian graves


    i need this book from free down­load

  • ali says:

    Inter­na­tion­al dance con­fer­ence from the per­spec­tive of Abra­ham­ic and non-Abra­ham­ic reli­gions

    Hel­lo dear
    I am Ali Reza­ei from Qom, Iran. The sub­ject of my PhD the­sis was “Dance based on Shia Jafari jurispru­dence”. This the­sis was pre­sent­ed in the sem­i­nary of Qom. In this the­sis, which became a book, impor­tant top­ics are dis­cussed: the his­to­ry of dance in Islam. Tra­di­tions of pro­hi­bi­tion and per­mis­sion of danc­ing in Shia and Sun­ni. Pro­hi­bi­tion and per­mis­sion of danc­ing in Shia and Sun­ni jurispru­dence. Exam­in­ing new dances from the point of view of Shia jurispru­dence; Such as artis­tic dances, school dances, ther­a­peu­tic dances, sports dances and reli­gious dances such as Sama dance. This research, with its scope, still needs addi­tion­al research and dis­cus­sion with experts.
    Some top­ics that need more research and dis­cus­sion with uni­ver­si­ty and dance experts are: indi­vid­ual free­dom and reli­gious restric­tions with a dance approach, the his­to­ry of deal­ing with the phe­nom­e­non of dance in Abra­ham­ic reli­gions (Islam, Judaism, Chris­tian­i­ty), the nature. Dance and its func­tions in non-Abra­ham­ic reli­gions (Hin­duism, Bud­dhism, Shin­to, Tao, Con­fu­cian­ism, etc.), fem­i­nin­i­ty of dance: from the per­spec­tive of his­to­ry and cul­ture, the nature of sports dances and its types, the nature of ther­a­peu­tic dance and its func­tion, the role of dance in the sys­tem Ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion with the approach of sports dances, the cul­tur­al or polit­i­cal nature of dance and the taboo nature of dance in reli­gious soci­eties, inves­ti­gat­ing the ten­den­cy to dance in non-Abra­ham­ic reli­gions.
    I hope that with your coop­er­a­tion I can com­plete this research and pub­lish it inter­na­tion­al­ly. This research is not sup­port­ed sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly and finan­cial­ly in Iran due to the hatred of dance. I look for­ward to your help and I hope that with your coop­er­a­tion, we will estab­lish a sci­en­tif­ic-reli­gious coop­er­a­tion.

    1. The pub­li­ca­tion and trans­la­tion of books on the top­ic of dance is allowed under copy­right.
    2. This book and the plan of the inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence “Dance from the per­spec­tive of Abra­ham­ic and non-Abra­ham­ic reli­gions” have been sent to uni­ver­si­ties, dance com­pa­nies and the UNESCO orga­ni­za­tion, and you are not alone in sup­port­ing this plan and con­fer­ence.
    3. The book report and the result of this research will be pre­sent­ed at the inter­na­tion­al dance con­fer­ence, and if need­ed, it will be taught in a short course at your uni­ver­si­ty or insti­tute.
    4. The fem­i­nin­i­ty of dance and women is an impor­tant issue in the dis­cus­sion of dance from the point of view of Islam­ic reli­gion and Islam­ic his­to­ry. Now extreme Mus­lims (Shia and Sun­ni) have a prob­lem with female dancers and pun­ish them for danc­ing. Islam­ic tra­di­tions are also dif­fer­ent about wom­en’s dance. This issue is the most impor­tant chal­lenge of Islam and Abra­ham­ic reli­gions in research and social issues relat­ed to dance.
    5. Inter­na­tion­al Dance Con­fer­ence:
    A) This con­fer­ence is in col­lab­o­ra­tion with UNESCO (rep­re­sent­ing the world com­mu­ni­ty), the Vat­i­can (rep­re­sent­ing Chris­tian­i­ty), Azhar Uni­ver­si­ty in Egypt (rep­re­sent­ing Sun­nis), Najaf Ashraf Sem­i­nary (rep­re­sent­ing Jafari Shi­ites) and the Union of Rab­bis of Islam­ic Coun­tries. will be held. held by the Jews).
    b) This con­fer­ence is held every two years in one of the five con­ti­nents. Its per­ma­nent sec­re­tari­at is at the World Dance Orga­ni­za­tion in Paris.
    c) The pur­pose of hold­ing this con­fer­ence is to clear the con­fu­sion of art, music and dance from the point of view of schol­ars of Abra­ham­ic and non-Abra­ham­ic reli­gions.
    d) This con­fer­ence will be held with the pres­ence of schol­ars and uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors and dance the­o­rists.
    e) This con­fer­ence will have four main com­mis­sions: reli­gion and dance, women and dance, his­to­ry and dance, soci­ety (cul­ture) and dance.
    f) The expens­es of the con­fer­ence are pro­vid­ed by char­i­ties and uni­ver­si­ties and it has no gov­ern­ment or reli­gious affil­i­a­tion.
    g) In addi­tion to this sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence, tele­vi­sion pro­grams and doc­u­men­taries with the pres­ence of experts will be pro­duced and broad­cast about the var­i­ous aspects of dance from the per­spec­tive of Abra­ham­ic reli­gions and in the his­to­ry and today of Islam­ic soci­eties (Shia and Sun­ni).
    h) This meet­ing will be a mod­el for oth­er chal­leng­ing cul­tur­al and artis­tic issues in Abra­ham­ic and non-Abra­ham­ic reli­gions. Top­ics such as: Wom­en’s iden­ti­ty in Abra­ham­ic lit­er­a­ture. Music in Abra­ham­ic reli­gions, cloth­ing and cloth­ing in Abra­ham­ic reli­gions, paint­ing and sculp­ture in Abra­ham­ic reli­gions. Games and enter­tain­ment in Abra­ham­ic reli­gions. Hap­pi­ness in Abra­ham­ic reli­gions
    j) This meet­ing will bring the con­ver­gence of reli­gions and reli­gions in chal­leng­ing cul­tur­al-artis­tic issues and will turn your insti­tu­tion into a cen­ter for the dis­cus­sion of civ­i­liza­tions and reli­gions and the cen­ter of dis­course of reli­gions and reli­gions. This inter­na­tion­al event will be your hon­or and I will be hap­py to share in this hon­or. I hope for your wise deci­sion and the cen­ter. A deci­sion that will have strong media cov­er­age and will affect sev­er­al bil­lions of fol­low­ers of dif­fer­ent reli­gions and inform all of them about the par­tic­i­pants of the con­fer­ence and this con­fer­ence.
    Ali Reza­ei
    Iran. Qom

    Resume sum­ma­ry

    Year of birth: 1971
    Place of birth: Najaf Ashraf, Iraq
    Iran­ian nation­al­i­ty
    Occu­pa­tion: researcher and writer: screen­writer, expert in Islam­ic his­to­ry and Shi­ite jurispru­dence.
    Degree: Ph.D. from the sem­i­nary of Qom (with the title of dance from the point of view of the Jafari sect)
    Mas­ter’s degree: Fac­ul­ty of Broad­cast­ing, Qom branch
    Reli­gious sci­ences: par­tic­i­pa­tion in the advanced cours­es of Aya­tol­lah Vahid Kho­rasani, the late Aya­tol­lah Javad Tabrizi, Seyyed Ahmed Madi Mousavi (jurispru­dence and prin­ci­ples).
    Address: Iran. Qom. Rouhani St
    Kausar4. Num­ber 326.

  • Frances Joy Bradbury says:


    I am a col­lage artist and would like to know:

    How do I search for themed images using this web­site?

    How do I access images on this web­site?


    Frances Joy Brad­bury

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