Smithsonian releases massive digitized collection of Asian treasures for public use
The Smithsonian Institution has released more than 44,000 images of precious artworks and artifacts from two of their museums of Asian art, many of which have never been shown publicly before. The galleries are the first Smithsonian museums and first Asian art museums to digitize and share their collections on the internet.
Plaque depicting a king offering wine (305–30 BCE), Egypt, possibly Ptolemaic dynasty, soft limestone. Image courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian.
The images come from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The digital collection, which took several years to complete, includes ancient ceramics and spear heads dating back more than 6,000 years, bronze swords, ancient armor, intricate manuscripts, gold and silver jewelry, ceremonial objects, toys, beautiful paintings, textiles and costumes, and ancient Persian and Egyptian artifacts.
One of the images from the newly-released collection. Katsushika Hokusai, 'Thunder god' (1760–1849), Japan, Edo period, 1847, ink and color on paper. Image courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian.
Forbes reports that the vast majority of the images – around 35,000 works – have never been seen before, having been kept in museum storage rooms for decades.
The images are provided without copyright restrictions for non-commercial use. “Now, a new generation can not only appreciate these works on their own terms, but remix this content in ways we have yet to imagine,” Courtney O’Callaghan, the galleries’ director of digital media and technology, said in a statement.
The Ramayana (Tales of Rama; The Freer Ramayana), Volume 2. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper 1597-1605 Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
"We are the first Smithsonian museums to digitize their collections. This is a great opportunity for scholars and researchers as well as virtual visitors to have 24/7 access to our impressive collection," O'Callaghan told China Daily . The free public resource, called " Open F/S ", is available at open.asia.si.edu.
'Four Mandala Vajravali Thangka' (c. 1430), Tibet, opaque watercolor on cloth. Image courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian.
In the last decade, mass digitization projects have exploded with numerous institutions bringing books, artworks, music, scholarly works, and museum collections online for the world to enjoy. In January last year, the Wellcome Trust made more than 100,00 digital records available to the public, while in May, the Metropolitan Museum released over 400,000 ancient images . The latest release adds to the ever-increasing collection of digital artworks and historical records available online.
Seated Princess, attributed to Muhammad Sharif Musawwir. Image courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian.
Featured image: A Council at Lanka, an episode from the Ramayana. Color and gold on paper. Image courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian.