Although it does not have a modern art collection, the Walters Art Museum is a very modern museum. In 2006, it adopted a free admission policy and since then has not charged visitors to view its permanent collection. Now, the museum has decided to make nearly all of its collection, almost 30,000 works, available online. 10,000 of these are already available for viewing at the Walters Art Museum website.
According to the Baltimore Sun: “When completed, the effort will put the Walters at the forefront of the emerging technology of online museums and make it one of the few institutions in the world that allows virtual visitors to explore almost every artwork it owns.”
What about copyright? The manager of web and social media for the museum, Dylan Kinnett, told the Baltimore Sun that the collection is “basically public domain.” “We are not terribly worried about [violations],” Kinnett said. “It is not a deterrent to the release of the images. Our job is to make sure people are seeing the art.”
So, what about copyright?! Kinnett seems fairly confident that the works involved in the project were not made by artists that are currently alive or that have active estates. Furthermore, the images are being made available online under a Creative Commons license that prohibits commercial use. Unlike many privately owned museums, including the nearby Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters belongs to the city of Baltimore. According to the Baltimore Sun, “Its masterpieces are public assets, and so far as possible, they should be freely available to the public.”
The project is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. They are currently about 1/3 of the way through digitizing the collection.
Read more at The Baltimore Sun:
“Walters Art Museum Opens Access to 10,000 Images”
“Walters Pioneers the Virtual Museum”