The Cleveland Museum of Art Digitizes Its Collection, Putting 30,000 Works Online and Into the Public Domain

The lines of the descent from the plu­to­crat­ic wealth and auto­crat­ic pow­er of the late 19th cen­tu­ry to the worst atroc­i­ties of the ear­ly 20th might seem appar­ent to some peo­ple. So too can we trace from the Gild­ed Age an insti­tu­tion­al sys­tem of mon­u­ments to art, cul­ture, and high­er learn­ing unique to mod­ern times. Whether by virtue of greed, guilt, or noblesse oblige, or some of all of the above, wealthy indus­tri­al­ists sought to show—as Andrew Carnegie wrote in his “Gospel of Wealth”—that “the hous­es of some should be homes for all that is high­est and best in lit­er­a­ture and the arts, and for all the refine­ments of civ­i­liza­tion.”

The trea­sures of world cul­ture were donat­ed back to the world, but the proud benef­i­cence of their givers lived on in the insti­tu­tions. In the case of Cleve­land tele­graph mag­nate Jeptha Wade, who was him­self a daguerreo­typ­ist and por­trait painter, the mem­o­ry of the gen­er­ous gift con­tin­ues in Wade Park, home of the Fine Arts Gar­den and the Cleve­land Muse­um of Art, cre­at­ed from his bequest.

Now, over 125 years lat­er, Wade’s patron­age lives on online. “Brace your­self for some meme-wor­thy Egypt­ian cats and gif-able Renais­sance babies,” as Zachary Small jokes at Hyper­al­ler­gic.

The muse­um has just announced its dig­i­tal col­lec­tion with a poignant quote from its founder declar­ing it an eter­nal dona­tion to humankind: “The state­ment ‘for the ben­e­fit of all the peo­ple for­ev­er’ was writ­ten into Jeptha Wade’s 1892 deed of gift for the land on which the muse­um stands… reflect­ing its founders’ belief that muse­ums should be places for inspi­ra­tion and for cre­at­ing won­der and mean­ing in people’s lives.”

This may sound like osten­ta­tious rhetoric, but the announce­ment also tells us that its free dig­i­tal col­lec­tion is “using Open Access,” which means “the pub­lic now has the abil­i­ty to share, remix, and reuse images of as many as 30,000 CMA art­works—“near­ly half of the museum’s entire col­lec­tion,” notes Small—are now “in the pub­lic domain for com­mer­cial as well as schol­ar­ly and non­com­mer­cial pur­pos­es.” Take even a small sam­pling of their open col­lec­tions and you may find more than enough inspi­ra­tion, won­der, and mean­ing.

Take, for exam­ple, Van Gogh’s The Large Plane Trees, J.M.W. Turner’s The Burn­ing of the Hous­es of Lords and Com­mons, El Greco’s The Holy Fam­i­ly with Mary Mag­dalen, and Edouard Manet’s Berthe Morisot. Take work from Rem­brandt, Velázquez, Mon­et, Cezanne, Car­avag­gio, Pis­sar­ro, Degas, Rubens, Poussin, Rodin. Take mas­ter­ful works like ancient Egypt­ian New King­dom Head of Amen­hotep II Wear­ing the Blue Crown and Timurid peri­od Iran­ian Roy­al Recep­tion in a Land­scape—as well as many from cen­tral Africa, Chi­na, India, Japan and Korea.

The Open Access col­lec­tion has swelled to over 34,000 images that can be down­loaded as jpgs or high-res­o­lu­tion tiffs. These and over 60,000 more online works come with descrip­tions, cita­tions, exhi­bi­tion his­to­ries, and more. What­ev­er con­flu­ence of his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary events brought Cleve­land’s dig­i­tal col­lec­tion into being, it does indeed seem to be for the great ben­e­fit of a great num­ber of inter­net-con­nect­ed peo­ple around the world. Take full advan­tage of its new­ly pub­lic resources here.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go Puts 44,000+ Works of Art Online: View Them in High Res­o­lu­tion

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

Google Puts Over 57,000 Works of Art on the Web

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

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.