The Smithsonian Puts 4.5 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Use

This vast repository of American history that is the Smithsonian Institution evolved from an organization founded in 1816 called the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. Its mandate, the collection and dissemination of useful knowledge, now sounds a lot like the 19th century – but so does its name. Columbia, the symbolic goddess-like personification of the United States of America, is rarely directly referenced today, having been replaced by Lady Liberty. The features of the two figures appear in the representation on the 19th century fireman’s hat above, on which you can read more at Smithsonian Open Accessa digital archive that now contains some 4.5 million images.

“Anyone can download, reuse and remix these images at any time – for free under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license”, write Jessica Stewart and Madeleine Muzdakis of My Modern Met. “A dive into the 3D recordings shows everything from CAD models of the Apollo 11 Command Module to 1840 by Horatio Greenough sculpture of george washington.”

2D artifacts of interest include “a portrait of Pocahontas in the National Portrait Gallery, an image of the Wright Circular of 1903 of the National Air and Space Museum, and boxing headgear worn by Mohamed Ali of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The NMAAHC in particular has provided a large number of items relevant to 20th century American culture, such as James Baldwin’s inkwell, Chuck Berry Maybellene’s Guitar, Public Enemy BoomboxesAnd the poster for a Nina Simone concert in 1968. The darkest object just above, a Native American kachina figurine with the head of Mickey Mouse, from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “When Disney Studios brought a mouse hero to the big screen in the 1930s,” the accompanying notes explain, “Hopi artists saw Mickey Mouse as a celebration of Tusan Homichi, the legendary mouse warrior who defeated a chicken-stealing hawk” – and were thus themselves inspired, it seems, to summarize a large chunk of American history in a single object.

More items are added to Smithsonian Open Access all the time, each with their own story to tell – and all accessible not just to Americans, but to internet users everywhere. In that sense, it’s a bit like the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, better known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, with its mission to reveal America’s scientific, technological, and artistic genius to all. of human civilization. You can see a large number of photos and other artifacts from this historic event at the Smithsonian Open Accessor, if you prefer, you can click on the “just navigate” link and see all the historical, cultural and formal variety available in the Smithsonian’s digital collections, where the spirit of Columbia lives on.

via Kottke/My modern met

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Based in Seoul, Hake MArshall writes and distributests about cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter books about cities, the book The City Without a State: A Walk through 21st Century Los Angeles and the video series The city in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall Or on Facebook.

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