The Met makes 375,000 images available for free

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art – better known as The Met (opens in new tab) – made headlines last year when it revealed a bold new rebrand by Wolff Olins (opens in new tab) that provoked plenty of designer ire.

Now, though, it's unveiled a brand new initiative that's bound to endear it to designers and artists worldwide. It's updated its Open Access policy and made all of the public domain artworks in The Met collection (opens in new tab) available under a Creative Commons Zero (opens in new tab) licence.

There are over 375,000 public domain artworks in The Met's collection

There are over 375,000 public domain artworks in The Met's collection

What this means is that whoever you are, you can access and download images of any of the public domain works in The Met's digital collection and do whatever you want with them. Whether you want to remix them, turn them into digital collages, or even sell them as prints or T-shirts, you can do so right now.

And there's quite a selection to work with. In his blog post (opens in new tab) introducing Open Access at The Met, chief digital officer Loic Tallon estimates the public domain collection to number over 375,000 works out of a total of over 1.5 million objects spanning 5,000 years of culture from around the world.

Every public domain work is clearly marked so you know that you can use it

Every public domain work is clearly marked so you know that you can use it

This includes over 8,000 paintings for you to search through, and new works are being added all the time; in the past year alone over 18,000 new public domain works have been added to the collection.

Finding a piece of art to work with is spectacularly easy; you can search The Met's online collection and filter by Public Domain, and beyond that you can fine-tune your search by specifying artist, object type, location, date and department.

Available works have been digitised in high resolution for you to download…

Available works have been digitised in high resolution for you to download…

…so you can easily create your own derivative works, entirely legally!

…so you can easily create your own derivative works, entirely legally!

The Met is also making key information, otherwise known as tombstone data – title, maker, date, culture, medium, and dimensions – available for all 440,000 artworks that the Museum has digitised to date; you can download it now from GitHub (opens in new tab).

The Met isn't the first institution to throw its collection open to the world in this way; in 2015 the British Library put over a million images from its collection  for anyone to download. Both schemes, however, represent an excellent opportunity for designers and artists to find inspiration and create new works based on classic art. So don't hang around; head over to The Met's online collection (opens in new tab) and see what you can find!

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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.

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