No copyright restrictions, no watermarks, and hassle-free high quality downloadable images – No problem! When dealing with museum collections online: Yeah right, one (digital archive enthusiast) might say.
The national museum of the Netherlands, Rijksmuseum, just re-opened in April, 2013 after nearly 10 year closure dedicated to building renovations and digitizing its collection.
Focusing on Netherlands history, from the medieval era to present day, Dutch artists and masterpieces dominate the collection. Currently there are 125k high resolution images (2500 x 2500 pixels, 300 dpi) which allows close inspection of cracks, brush strokes, and other signs of age and imperfections that can illuminate the lifespan and history of a piece of art (click on images for resolution gratification). AND, of course reproductions.
Not only are high resolution downloads available, the user interface is easy and user-friendly. If an item has copyright restrictions, it can’t be downloaded: simple. But the Rijksmuseum doesn’t stop at providing free access to images, they encourage creative use of artworks. The Rijksstudio gives users the ability to add items (or snippets of images) to various user created sets. Images can be then be purchased in several formats: poster, canvas, aluminum, or Plexiglas.
However, images are at such a quality users are encouraged to use artwork at their own creative whims and the upload re-works to share with other users. Still life tattoo, anyone? A masterpiece for your milk carton? User sets can be made public which can be useful in browsing the collection to see others’ created sets. This can be helpful since although the site can be viewed in English, only the metadata field titles are translated, not the content of those fields. Meaning, keyword searches are more fruitful when translated in Dutch. For me, I found it extremely helpful to have two Google Translate open: one for English to Dutch / the other for Dutch to English for title and description translation.While this is an extra step and could be an annoyance for some, being overly catered to as an English speaker I found it a good exercise in accommodating another language. And, I even learned a few new words: canal – kanaal, summer – zomer, winter – winter.
While extensive metadata fields, often linking to related objects, are provided for each record, the coolest feature (to me) is search-ability by color. When looking at each image, a color palate is displayed for that image which allows users to click on a specific color which then yields all other items in the collection with that color. Color classification and search-ability adds to the usability of the Rijksmuseum collection as a visual resource for the arts. The generosity of Rijksmuseum to provide high quality, free images of artworks in an innovative interface might just redefine the phrase: Going Dutch.