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Yale announces free online access to museum, library collections

Associated Press / May 11, 2011

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NEW HAVEN — Yale University officials announced yesterday that the school intends to be the first in the Ivy League to offer free online access to digital images of millions of objects housed in its museums, archives, and libraries.

No license will be required for transmission of the images, and no limitations will be imposed on their use, which will allow scholars, artists and others around the world to use Yale collections for study, publication, teaching, and inspiration, Yale officials said.

It will take many years for the university to digitize all its objects. The school has harvested 1.5 million records from its catalogs and digitized 250,000 of them, available through a newly developed collective catalog at http://tinyurl.com/4x2x2f3. Yale expects the number of records to grow much larger as it continues to harvest its catalogs.

Images now accessible under the new policy include pictures of the war bonnet of Sioux chief Red Cloud, a Mozart sonata in the composer’s own hand, and a 15th-century Javanese gold kris, or dagger, handle.

Yale says its collections are among the strongest in depth and breadth of any academic institution in the world, ranging from anthropology to vertebrate zoology and including world-renowned art collections from antiquity to the present.

“That Yale has achieved the goal of making its collections available online to students, scholars, and the general public, in a free and open-access environment, is a splendid achievement that we hope will inspire other colleges and universities internationally to follow suit,’’ said Amy Meyers, director of the Yale Center for British Art. “The ability to publish images directly from our online catalogues without charge will encourage the increased use of our collections for scholarship, a benefit to which we look forward with the greatest excitement.’’

Researchers will be able to examine individual items online in detail and compare objects from different collections side by side.

“High costs of reproduction rights have traditionally limited the ability of scholars, especially ones early in their careers, to publish richly illustrated books and articles in the history of art, architecture, and material and visual culture,’’ said Mariet Westermann, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Yale’s new policy provides an important model to follow.’’