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The Met Just Released 375,000 Priceless Artworks into the Public Domain

America's largest museum sets free its iconic collection of paintings and sculptures.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art unloaded a massive chunk of its collection into the public domain on Tuesday, making them available for anyone with an internet connection to use or simply appreciate.

As part of a new Open Access Policy, the Met designated 375,000 images with the Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal copyright, the broadest possible. Impressionist masters like Cézanne, Monet, and Degas, Japanse woodblock print artists like Hokusai, sculptors like Rodin, and thousands more are available for anyone to "copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission," according to the Creative Commons. 

Katsushika Hokusai, Fuji from the Katakura Tea Fields in Suruga from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, 1830–32, Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 10 1/4 in. x 15 in.

The Met has consolidated all of these images, along with those it believes to already be in the public doman, on their website for easy perusal and high-res download. These images were previously available to see, but downloads were restricted to non-commercial and academic use.

To help communities, the Met is working with Shared Shelf Commons, the Digital Public Library of America, the Google Cultural Institute, Wikimedia, and Pinterest. Richard Knipel has been enlisted as a Wikipedian in Residence, who will catalog metadata from the works in order to spread it through other digital avenues.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat, 1887, Oil on canvas 16 x 12 1/2 in.

Other museums that have released portions of their collections to the public domain include the The GettyThe National Gallery of ArtLACMAThe Rijksmuseum, and The New York Public Library. Websites like Pond5 and Unsplash also work to gather photos, film clips, and other creative materials that are already in the public domain. This means that not only are many of the greatest artworks of all time already at our fingertips to distribute and remix, but greats without the name recognition of van Gogh or Rembrandt now have a platform to be discovered by those without the time to physically visit a particular museum.

If you can still visit the Met, though, you should: the newly released work represents only a fraction of the Met's entire collection, which consists of about 1.5 million individual artworks.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait, 1660, Oil on canvas, 31 5/8 x 26 1/2 in.

Paul Cézanne, The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L'Estaque Artist, 1885, Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 39 1/2 in.

Gustav Klimt, Mäda Primavesi, 1912–13, Oil on canvas, 59 x 43 1/2 in.

Claude Monet, Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899, Oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 29 in.

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, Cast by Alexis Rudier, first modeled probably in 1880, this bronze cast 1910, Bronze, 27 5/8 in.

Georges Seurat, Study for "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," 1884, Oil on canvas, 27 3/4 x 41 in.

Auguste Renoir, Reclining Nude,1883, Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 32 in.

Édouard Manet, The Spanish Singer, 1860, Oil on canvas, 58 x 45 in.

Piet Mondrian, 
Composition, 1921, Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.

Vasily Kandinsky, Rain Landscape, 1911, Watercolor on paper, 10 x 12 1/2 in.

Peruse the Metropolitan Museum of Art's public domain directory here.

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