Matthew Lincoln, PhD Cultural Heritage Data & Info Architecture

Getty Open Content

I was thrilled to hear last week that the J. Paul Getty Museum is beginning to open their digital content to free access online. James Cuno says the time for this transition is now:

The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief. This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity. In its discussion of open content, the most recent Horizon Report, Museum Edition stated that “it is now the mark – and social responsibility – of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.” I agree wholeheartedly.

This is particularly timely for a talk I’ll be giving at SCSC this fall on an illuminated manuscript in the Getty’s collections. Click on the picture to zoom in and see the kind of details visible in these images:

hoefnagel detail
Joris Hoefnagel, illuminator (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 - 1600) and Georg Bocskay, scribe (Hungarian, died 1575), detail from Maltese Cross, Mussel, and Ladybird, from the Mira calligraphiae monumenta, 1561 - 1562; illumination added 1591 - 1596, Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment. Leaf: 16.6 x 12.4 cm (6 9/16 x 4 7/8 in.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 20, fol. 37. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

I do hope that as more museums adopt this policy, they implement it with equally-open technological standards like the Rijksmuseum has done with its API that open up collection images and metadata in a way that is both human-readable as well as machine-readable.

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Lincoln, Matthew D. "Getty Open Content." Matthew Lincoln, PhD (blog), 20 Aug 2013,

Tagged in: Art History