The world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian, has unveiled Open Access, a new portal to more than 2.8 million 2D and 3D images. The Smithsonian refers to Open Access as a ‘vast and diverse digital resource’ for the public, one that contains images of historic artifacts, classic paintings and some of the world’s oldest photographs.

The images are free to browse and download, marking the first time the Smithsonian has offered a resource like this. The content was sourced from all 19 Smithsonian museums, as well as its research centers and other facilities. Because these images are all in the public domain, the Smithsonian notes that anyone can use them for ‘just about anything,’ including printing them and putting them on other products.

Another 200,000 images will be added to the collection throughout 2020, according to the institution, which plans to add even more in the future as it continues to digitize its vast collection. Though other institutions around the world have started sharing digitized versions of their content, the size and scope of the Smithsonian’s new digital cache is described as ‘unprecedented.’

King’s College London expert Simon Tanner who served as an advisor for the initiative said:

The sheer scale of this interdisciplinary dataset is astonishing. It opens up a much wider scope of content that crosses science and culture, space and time, in a way that no other collection out there has done, or could possibly even do. This is a staggering contribution to human knowledge.

All 2.8 million 2D and 3D images are listed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

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