To help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the English Museum Unfortunately, it will remain closed for the foreseeable future. But officials at the London institution still serve up a daily dish of culture via the museum’s website, which houses an extensive repository of digitized items from its collections.
A total of 1.9 million images from the British Museum, of which 280,000 are new additions, are now available to view onlinereports Sarah Cascone for artnet News. released under a Creative Commons 4.0 License, all of these photographs may be downloaded, adapted, and used free of charge for non-commercial purposes, provided the museum is credited. And, for the first time since the online catalog launched in 2007, users can explore the 4.5 million objects digitized to date on mobile phones and tablets.
The museum’s plan to increase its digital presence is not new. In fact, this exact release was originally planned for later this year. Still, spurred by closures and cancellations around the world, the institution’s team decided to launch the new footage well ahead of schedule in hopes of bringing cultural solace to those sheltering at home. them.
Today, we’re excited to launch a major overhaul of our online collection!
We have worked very hard to bring you this update sooner so that you can #MuseumFromHome even better than before.
— British Museum (@britishmuseum) April 28, 2020
“We are thrilled to be able to unveil this major overhaul early and hope these significant objects can provide inspiration, thoughtfulness, or even just quiet moments of distraction during this difficult time,” says museum director Hartwig Fischer, in one declaration.
Allowing the public to upload and transform images allows patrons to interact more fully with museum artifacts, making them participants in the creation of cultural history. Like Andrea Wallacean expert in cultural heritage law at the University of Exeter, said Smithsonian magazine earlier this year, designating the materials as Creative Commons “transfers a lot of the power to the public.” This feeling can be especially welcome in times of heightened isolation and uncertainty.
As Becky Ferreira reports for Vice, the redesign also includes some benefits of digital tourism. Some of the objects on the site have been scanned and uploaded in such detail that viewers can explore nooks and crannies invisible to the naked eye. Among the artifacts rendered in such high definition are the Rosetta stone; Hoa Hakananai’a, a Rapa Nui sculpture from Easter Island; the Game of Ur, a roughly 5,000-year-old board game that once delighted the people of Mesopotamia; and a 1600 year old man Chinese Warning Scroll.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti The Death of Breuze Without Pity, an 1857 watercolor depicting a pair of knights battling in a verdant forest, is another welcome newcomer. Acquired by the museum last year, the work’s inclusion marks a relatively rapid turnaround in digitization. As Mark Brown reported for the Guardian Last September, the Pre-Raphaelite painting entered the institution’s collections after a tumultuous journey, including a 67-year absence from the public scene that ended in 1993, when it reappeared at a sale at London.
More big plans will appear in the weeks and months to come, according to Vice. In the meantime, virtual visitors have plenty to explore.
As Fischer says in the statement, “Whether you are a student, artist, scholar, or lover of history and culture, this is an unrivaled resource for exploring the richness, diversity, and complexity of human history contained in the collection of the British Museum.”