From The New York Times:
Many museums post their collections online, but the Rijksmuseum here has taken the unusual step of offering downloads of high-resolution images at no cost, encouraging the public to copy and transform its artworks into stationery, T-shirts, tattoos, plates or even toilet paper.
The museum, whose collection includes masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Mondrian and van Gogh, has already made images of 125,000 of its works available through Rijksstudio, an interactive section of its Web site. The staff’s goal is to add 40,000 images a year until the entire collection of one million artworks spanning eight centuries is available, said Taco Dibbits, the director of collections at the Rijksmuseum.
A Few Examples of What Other Large Museums Provide
The National Gallery [U.S.] has so far uploaded about 25,000 works to share with the public. “Basically, this is the wave of the future for museums in the age of digital communications,” Ms. Ziska said. “Sharing is what museums need to learn to do.”
At the National Gallery in London, the collection of 2,500 artworks has been digitized and made available for academic purposes, but the museum has not provided free downloads.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has 137 million works in its coffers and has chosen 14 million of those for digitization, said a spokeswoman, Linda St. Thomas. It has made about 860,500 images, video clips, sound files, electronic journals and other resources available online, but the images of artworks are all low resolution — again, to discourage commercial use.
The Prado Museum in Madrid has an online gallery of around 5,000 high-resolution images that can be purchased for editorial, academic or commercial use. Fees range from 100 to 1,000 euros ($129 to $1,290) for noncommercial use, and from 200 to 9,060 euros ($258 to $11,670) for commercial purposes.