When we’re working in digital, one of the hairiest issues can be finding appropriate imagery and other resources to build on without stepping on a creator’s rights or paying through the nose. That’s why you see so many blogs and social media posts with boring stock imagery!

There is no excuse now!

Today, the Smithsonian has announced a massive new Open Access initiative years in the making. Through the new portal si.edu/OpenAccess, the museum has revealed 2.8 million images from it’s collection for anyone to use, modify, and share. This massive digital access project includes photos of artwork as well 3-d imagery and nearly 200 hundred years of data archives from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo.

From the Smithsonian blog:

Nearly 200 other institutions worldwide—including Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago—have made similar moves to digitize and liberate their masterworks in recent years. But the scale of the Smithsonian’s release is “unprecedented” in both depth and breadth, says Simon Tanner, an expert in digital cultural heritage at King’s College London.

Researchers and academics praised the news. “I don’t think American citizens fully comprehend what’s happening here,” wrote Clare Fieseler of Georgetown University on Twitter. “Today the Smithsonian begins the journey of putting the 4 billion objects we collectively own in our national “basement” on the web. FOR EVERYONE.”

“Big news!’” wrote Andrew Lih, Met Museum Wikimedia strategist. “Smithsonian adopts a new Open Access policy, allowing free reuse of their content. The Wikipedia community and Wikimedia DC have worked for years to help this move forward.”

From the Smithsonian:

Listed under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, the 2.8 million images in the new database are now liberated from all restrictions, copyright or otherwise, enabling anyone with a decent Internet connection to build on them as raw materials—and ultimately participate in their evolution.

We hope you’re as excited as we are!