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Open Access

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The Cleveland Museum of Art is proud to be an Open Access Institution, offering the public the ability to download, share, collaborate, remix, and reuse images of public-domain artworks from the museum’s collection, as well as metadata for the entire collection—all without asking permission. High-resolution images and data related to the CMA’s collection are made available under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation.

What is Open Access?

Open Access content (images, data, software, and documentation) is content that the CMA publishes digitally online, free of charge, and without copyright and licensing restrictions. For more information about Open Access, visit the Creative Commons website for an  overview. Images, data, software, and documentation offered with Creative Commons Zero can be used in any application, from art making, education, digital media projects, scholarly research and publication to data science – all without fee or restriction.  

Half a Decade of Open Access

Five years ago, in January 2019, the CMA launched its Open Access initiative, which makes available to the public high-resolution images of more than half the artworks in our collection, completely free to view, use, remix, merchandize, and more.

2024 marks the fifth anniversary of the CMA’s Open Access collection. The online collection has been viewed six million times on its website, its API has been downloaded 45 million times, and its collections have been viewed nearly 300 million times on Wikimedia platforms. The CMA’s Open Access initiative has reached millions of users, serving the museum’s mission to “create transformative experiences through art for the benefit of all the people forever.”

Every year, we add numerous new images to the public domain. Notably, as of January 1, 2024, works by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen and Maurice Denis were added into the Open Access collection.

What is the Open Access Initiative?

As of January 23, 2019, the Cleveland Museum of Art is an Open Access institution, using the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation for high-resolution images and data related to its collection. This means the public now has the ability to share, collaborate, remix, and reuse images of public-domain artworks from the CMA’s world-renowned collection—all without asking permission. In addition, portions of collections information (metadata) for artwork records, both in the public domain and those works with copyright or other restrictions, are now available.

Why Open Access?

Open Access is a logical and exciting outgrowth of the CMA’s inclusive mission “to create transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.” The time is right to firmly bring our mission into the 21st century. With this move to Open Access, we have transformed not only access to the CMA’s collection but also its usability inside and outside the walls of our museum. By expanding access to the collection, we proudly contribute to best practice, both in the quality of images and the wealth of data we will release.

Read the full statement from the CMA’s director, William Griswold.

Explore Open Access Artworks on CMA's Collection Online

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Frequently Asked Questions

Measuring Impact

Since launching our Open Access Initiative, the CMA has been asking “How is Open Access making an impact?” In May 2020, in collaboration with local data science firm Pandata, the CMA launched its Live Virtual Dashboards, which update daily. Click through the tabs to see different data sets!

A screenshot of a graph showing open access API downloads

Open Access Experiments

Open Access in 3-D

In September 2019, the Cleveland Museum of Art extended its Open Access policy to three dimensional (3-D) images of public domain artworks from its collection. Works with available 3-D image files are linked to open access objects in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Collection Online with the 3-D icon and can be viewed and downloaded via Sketchfab.

You can interact with the Wade Cup with Animated Script on the CMA’s Collection Online and Sketchfab page, or try it here!

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Open Access Objects

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Testimonials

It’s been especially exciting to watch as people from all over the globe discover and use these images in their own projects via the Creative Commons Search tool. Providing true access to digital knowledge and culture requires more than just publishing content online and calling it “open.” The CMA has exhibited great leadership in this space.

-Cable Green, Interim CEO and Director of Education, Creative Commons

Wikimedia

It’s been great to see the impact that the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Open Access Program has had on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. [The] CMA’s Open Access Program allows for new ways for the public to experience the breadth of the museum’s content on a truly global scale.

5 out of 5 stars
-Kevin Payravi, Cofounder, Ohio Wikimedia Users Group

3-D Content

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s contribution to Open Access cultural 3-D content cannot be understated—the quality of 3-D data being made available is matched by the transparency of messaging regarding how this data can be reused and built upon by artists and creators.

5 out of 5 stars
-Thomas Flynn, Cultural Heritage Lead at Sketchfab

Global Leadership

The CMA is committed to transparency and universal access, and we anticipate that other institutions around the world will undertake similar initiatives in order to engage new audiences and help bring art to life for all.

-William Griswold, CMA Director

Awards

OHtec Best of Tech Awards

Winner: Best Community Collaboration and Innovation, Open Access Initiative

Museums and the Web Awards

Finalist: Behind the Scenes, Open Access Initiative 

Media and Technology MUSE Awards

Bronze: Research and Innovation, Open Access Initiative

Grands Prix Awards

Silver: Cross-Institutiuon Partnership, Launching Open Access: Toolsets and Protocols for Best Practice

More About Open Access

Special thanks to BlueBridge Networks' Tracy and Kevin Goodman whose love for art and culture and all things Cleveland contribute mightily to support the CMA's open access policy, helping us serve many by sharing our collection with the world, and extending our mission to create transformative experiences through art, "for the benefit of all the people forever" well into the twenty-first century.