From the Freer and Sackler Galleries:
The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, will release their entire collections online Jan. 1, 2015, providing unprecedented access to one of the world’s most important holdings of Asian and American art. The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public, and more than 90 percent of the images will be in high resolution and without copyright restrictions for noncommercial use.
The Freer and Sackler galleries are the first Smithsonian and the only Asian art museums to digitize and release their entire collections, and in so doing join just a handful of museums in the U.S.
In the initial release, each work will be represented by one or more stunningly detailed images at the highest possible resolution, with complex items such as albums and manuscripts showing the most important pages. In addition, some of the most popular images will also be available for download as free computer, smartphone and social media backgrounds. Future iterations plan to offer additional functionality like sharing, curation and community-based research.
The release is the result of a massive staff effort to photograph and create digital records for its objects, requiring almost 6,000 staff hours in the past year alone and resulting in more than 10 terabytes of data and 50,000 images.
The galleries also hosted the Smithsonian’s Rapid Capture Pilot Project, an emerging method of quickly and efficiently digitizing vast numbers of smaller objects.
While this is the galleries’ largest digital initiative to date, it joins other recent projects designed to increase global accessibility. Almost 400 full-length concerts by world-renowned performers—recorded over 20 years in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium—have recently been converted into digital format and are being made available for streaming and download on the galleries’ website.
The Freer|Sackler was also the only museum to participate in the launch of both Google’s Art Project, a platform that allows anyone the ability to virtually tour major museums and zoom into gigapixel versions of famous masterpieces, and Google’s Cultural Institute, an initiative to create online exhibitions using digital content.
Read the Complete Announcement