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The Art Institute of Chicago releases over 50,000 images for free download

van Gogh
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The new website makes it easy to view our favorite pieces of art, while helping us discover new masterpieces.

Click here to launch the slideshow

Some works of art are just too important to remain confined in a museum. Thankfully the Art Institute of Chicago agrees with this sentiment, as a recent update to their website included the release of more than 50,000 hi-res photographs of their paintings and exhibits.

Launch slideshow for more of what the website offers:

The hi-res photos allow the viewer to zoom in so close to the images that individual brush strokes are visible, a feature praised by the museum’s executive director of digital experience, Michael Neault:

“Check out the paint strokes in van Gogh’s The Bedroom, the charcoal details on Charles White’s Harvest Talk, or the synaesthetic richness of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Blue and Green Music.”

Each image is available for free download, so that the most prized works of art can be enjoyed at any time. Every one of the 52,438 pictures of their works is made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means that any image labeled “CC0 Public Domain Designation” can be obtained free of charge for both commercial and non-commercial use. While it does not require any further permissions from the museum, they ask that reproductions of the images include the following information:

Artist. Title, Date. The Art Institute of Chicago. This information, which is available on the object page for each work, is also made available under Creative Commons Zero (CC0).

The website’s “redesign” makes all the images they offer easy to search and view. Click on each image for pertinent information on the context of the work, the artist behind it, and its historical relevance.

For those who visit the museum, they have released a mobile app that has many of the same features of the website, but also offers guided tours with some of the museums finest curators.

The new-and-improved website also offers a tool called JourneyMaker, an interactive tool for children and families to explore the museum from the comfort of their homes … or anywhere there is internet access.

Our favorite part of the new website design is that when searching for a favored piece, the site provides “lesser-known artworks that are just as interesting but may be under the radar,” to help broaden the viewing experience and perhaps, discover some new favorites.

This is the Art Institute of Chicago’s first update in five years, and it has significantly grown to allow their visitors more freedom of exploration and has made the website feel more like a museum in its own right. Michael Neault explains the change on their website:

“Whereas we once mostly pointed our browsers to specific websites, today we often let content come to us directly through social media feeds,” Neault wrote in a piece unveiling the new site. “Even the devices we use have changed — today, people access the web through mobile devices just as much as with desktops, and this trend is increasing every year.”

He added: “With this redesign, we’ve gone from creating a singular website to becoming a more dynamic presence on the web. So no matter how you digitally encounter our content — through email subscriptions, keyword searches on search engines, or stories on social media — we want to help you find the artworks that inspire you.”

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