Art Museums and the Public Domain

A Movement Towards Open Access Collections

  • Rachel Hoster University of Michigan
Keywords: visual resources, copyright, public domain, open access, creative commons, museums


Over the past decade, open access digital collections have become more prevalent among Western art museums. As focus has shifted away from revenue gain and towards collection accessibility, there has been an increase in digital copies of works made available online for public viewing and scholarly research. The objective of this paper is to examine the different ways in which different art museums handle open access policies, exemplified by case studies of three institutions in the United States: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. These case studies provide a narrower, more detailed look at the changes that have occurred in open access policy and collection availability. Based on historical patterns, current trends, and the case studies, predictions will be made for the future of open access resources in art museums.


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