A Search Engine for Finding Free, Public Domain Images from World-Class Museums

Even before the pan­dem­ic, muse­ums were putting their art online. Here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve cov­ered such ambi­tious efforts of dig­i­ti­za­tion and mak­ing-avail­able on the part of the Rijksmu­se­um, the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, and oth­er major insti­tu­tions, some of whom have gone so far as to upload their hold­ings under Cre­ative Com­mons licens­es or in oth­er free-to-use forms. And now you can call forth art­works from the open online col­lec­tions and oth­ers all at once with the search engine Museo.

Museo is a visu­al search engine that con­nects you with the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, the Rijksmu­se­um, the Min­neapo­lis Insti­tute of Art and the New York Pub­lic Library Dig­i­tal Col­lec­tion,” writes cre­ator Chase McCoy, who also empha­sizes that con­nec­tions with more such col­lec­tions are to come.

“Every image you find here is in the pub­lic domain and com­plete­ly free to use, although cred­it­ing the source insti­tu­tion is rec­om­mend­ed!”

Imag­ine you need images to illus­trate an essay about, say, trav­el. Punch that word into Museo (or a relat­ed one like “jour­ney”) and out come a vari­ety of paint­ings, prints, draw­ings, sculp­tures, books, maps, house­wares, and oth­er items found in muse­ums. Here we have Adolph Men­zel’s In a Rail­way Car­riage (After a Night’s Jour­ney) from 1851, Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai’s The East­ern Jour­ney of the Cel­e­brat­ed Poet Ari­wara no Nar­i­hi­ra from 1806, Ael­bert Cuyp’s Riv­er Land­scape with Rid­ers from the mid-1650s, Seth East­man’s Indi­ans Trav­el­ling from 1850, and Richard New­ton’s On a Jour­ney to a Courtship in Wales from 1795.

The results are hard­ly lim­it­ed to con­ven­tion­al works like these: you’ll also find such curiosi­ties as an ear­ly 19th-cen­tu­ry trav­el­ing desk; a portable bank from 1904 called the “trav­el­ing teller”; a 1920 image “show­ing the earth bisect­ed cen­tral­ly through the polar open­ings and at right angles to the equa­tor, giv­ing a clear view of the cen­tral sun and the inte­ri­or con­ti­nents and oceans”; Hen­ry Cor­ry Row­ley Becher’s 1880 trav­el­ogue A Trip to Mex­i­co; and the Auto­mo­bile Club of Hart­ford’s 1922 Motor Trips guide to New Eng­land and east­ern New York.

Most of the art avail­able through Museo comes, as pub­lic-domain mate­r­i­al tends to, from times long past. But that, in its own way, encour­ages their cre­ative use: many of the images returned for “enter­tain­ment,” “food,” “sports,” and even “tech­nol­o­gy” fair­ly demand sur­pris­ing 21st-cen­tu­ry recon­tex­tu­al­iza­tion. As its net­work of col­lec­tions expands, do make a point of vis­it­ing Museo every so often to search for your own sub­jects of inter­est; your next big idea may well be inspired by art from a cen­tu­ry or two (or three, or four) ago.

via Austin Kleon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cre­ative Com­mons Offi­cial­ly Launch­es a Search Engine That Index­es 300+ Mil­lion Pub­lic Domain Images

Vis­it 2+ Mil­lion Free Works of Art from 20 World-Class Muse­ums Free Online

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art Makes 375,000 Images of Fine Art Avail­able Under a Cre­ative Com­mons License: Down­load, Use & Remix

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

Rijksmu­se­um Dig­i­tizes & Makes Free Online 361,000 Works of Art, Mas­ter­pieces by Rem­brandt Includ­ed!

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets You Down­load 180,000 Images in High Res­o­lu­tion: His­toric Pho­tographs, Maps, Let­ters & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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