All creative works build on what came before

Today, most of the world’s works of art are housed in museum collections, and a great number of these are in the public domain because their creators’ copyright has long expired or never existed. But the images of these works are a different matter. Their reproduction fees are often so expensive that the fate of scholarly publications may depend on whether researchers (whose efforts are typically unpaid) manage to raise sufficient funds for the reproduction costs.

But things are beginning to change: more and more museums are adjusting to the needs of the twenty-first century and are making their digital collections freely accessible, paving the way for sharing knowledge and enhancing creativity. One of the largest and most diverse collections can be found on the website of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the past few years, the Met has made nearly half a million works of art freely accessible, and their digital collection attracts – and inspires – several hundred million visitors a year.

One of these visitors is American artist Nina Paley, who animated archaeological artefacts from the Metropolitan Museum to illustrate that all creative works build on what came before.


It is in this spirit that we are launching our Open antiquities column. The objects that appear in the video can almost all be found in the Metropolitan Museum’s online collection. How many can you find?

If you get tired of searching, here is a much quicker memory game with some of the objects – give it a try! 🙂

Featured image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Mary and Michael Jaharis Gallery (source)


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