Smithsonian opens up its collections online

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries have released the entirety of their collections – over 40,000 high-resolution images of Asian and American art that have never been seen before by the public – online completely free of charge, intended for non-commercial use in a project called Open FS.

Woman with a spray of flowers; Iran, Safavid period, ca. 1575
Woman with a spray of flowers; Iran, Safavid period, ca. 1575

The project aims to encourage the public to use the images for “educational, scholarly, artistic and personal projects” and is part of a larger initiative by the Smithsonian to open up its digital collections to the public.

Four Mandala Vajravali Thangka; Tibet, ca. 1430
Four Mandala Vajravali Thangka; Tibet, ca. 1430

High-resolution images of works dating back thousands of years are available for the public to view, which took around 6,000 staff hours last year to photograph and digitise, with the project being in development for the last 15 years.

Digitising the collection
Digitising the collection

The galleries are the only Asian Art museums and first Smithsonian ones to release their entire digital collections online, and the Freer and Sackler Galleries hope that future functionality will include sharing, curation and community collaboration with community-based research.

Digitising the collection
Digitising the collection

The Freer and Sackler galleries previously helped launch Google’s Art Project and its Cultural Institute among other initiatives, and hope to develop further in 3D images and models of 3 dimensional works over the coming years.

The entire collection can be viewed online at open.asia.si.edu.

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