Open F|S
January 5, 2015 7:51 AM   Subscribe

 
I am so psyched about this, although I'm curious why there isn't an umbrella SI API scheme - it seems like F|S is pursuing one thing, where Cooper-Hewitt is pursuing another (much more humorous) strategy...
posted by illovich at 7:58 AM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Freer|Sackler is one of my favorite Smithsonian museums, probably my very favorite. I'm so glad to see this.
posted by immlass at 8:06 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really really wish they had an about page which detailed how long it took them to do this, what the cost was, and who provided the grant to do so. Now I may very well have to make an exceptionally gormless phone call.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


...and who provided the grant to do so.

Google Art Project?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:28 AM on January 5, 2015


...how long it took them to do this...

As per the FAQ, over 6000 hours in 2014, but they first started digitizing stuff back in 1998.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:33 AM on January 5, 2015


Oh my god. :O :)
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:36 AM on January 5, 2015


There are a lot of museums and cultural galleries going the open digital route; if you'll forgive the self-link, I wrote about some of the stand-outs yesterday, including F|S.
...where Cooper-Hewitt is pursuing another (much more humorous) strategy...
Yep, CH's approach is... strange. On the other hand, they made the custom typeface that was designed for their rebrand completely free and open, so there's that.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:39 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am omnivorous and greedy, I wish there was a simple way to get all the files at once.
posted by jadepearl at 8:44 AM on January 5, 2015


A tip for my fellow dunderheaded philistines:

Thag click "On View," Thag see more pretty pictures. Grunt. Snort. Ooooooooooooh pretty.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:23 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


From their explanation of "non-commercial use":
Non-commercial use encompasses a wide range of exciting possibilities—including artistic, educational, scholarly, and personal projects that will not be marketed, promoted, or sold. Examples include, but are not limited to, presentations, research, tattoos, sixth-grade science fair projects, tablet backgrounds, free and ad-free apps, GIFs, holiday centerpieces, Halloween costumes, decoupage, inspiration boards, and shower curtains.
I'm not sure how they expect these non-commercial shower curtains to get made, but I'm thinking you could do gift wrap or wallpaper from Spoonflower.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2015


I think it's great that they're doing this, but it bothers me that they're requiring licensing for commercial uses (if your blog has ads, anything you do there is a commercial use) of public domain material. Most of the collection is in the public domain due to age. Two thirds of the Smithsonian's employees are federal employees, which means work they do in the course of their duties is in the public domain. Photographic replicas are not themselves copyrightable, since there is no originality. And on top of that, Smithsonian Directive 609 encourages unrestricted use of public domain assets:
Although use of public domain materials is unrestricted as a matter of copyright law, the Smithsonian at times regulates access to, and use of, such works through contracts. Until a public domain policy is developed and implemented by the Institution, holding units are encouraged to make public domain digital assets available without restrictions and without licensing fees.
The public domain is being eroded badly enough already by changes to copyright law. I'm not thrilled to have what is essentially our national museum system eroding it further through contract law.
posted by hades at 9:32 AM on January 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Lucky sixth-graders.
posted by Kabanos at 9:33 AM on January 5, 2015


From the FAQ:
Can I crop, manipulate, or modify the images?
Yes! Art isn’t static, nor has it ever been. People with an urge to create always have been inspired by those who came before and the images around them. In fact, in our collections, you can see evidence of artists learning from each other, borrowing themes or techniques, and developing new concepts. We want that to continue!
posted by schmod at 9:56 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh my God, thank God (I teach an Asian art history survey and it's hard to get good images of the "canon" works).
posted by Capybara at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


the entire collection of 40,000 works

That couldn't be the entire collection, at just 40k items, could it? I would be disappointed if they didn't have more. I searched on keyword "Japanese" and only got 12 hits, there has to be more.

But yeah this is totally amazing. I just clicked a couple of times at random and landed on a tattered but lovely oil on board study by Whistler, a flat work in a faux ukiyo-e style, a careful color study. A little more directed searching, and I pulled up some lovely images of byoubu, Japanese folding screens. Here is a painted screen from about 1615 or so, of dramatic green trees on a gold leaf background, and painted on both sides.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:08 AM on January 5, 2015


I think it must be a problem with the 'browse' tags, as 'Edo' in the search box pulls up 836 objects and 'Muromachi' 108, for example (whoops, that's just paintings-- try 'Japan' rather than Japanese)
posted by Capybara at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2015


This was not what I expected when I searched for "pencil on paper".
posted by srt19170 at 12:04 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you go to the search page, scroll down to the "Browse By" section, and click on "Place" to expand it, you will see that for Japan they list 12115 records. You can click on the + to include that as a search term and run the search.

40,000 (ish) would be the entire collection of the Freer/Sackler, which are only two museums in the large Smithsonian museum "family." Some other Smithsonian museums include Asian material in their collections and are actively digitizing those collections, but have not yet done 100%.
posted by gudrun at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2015


Yeah, it looks like there are multiple indexing problems, but I'm sure that will improve after this initial release. I searched on Place:Japan and got 12115 records returned. This is more in line with their website that claims a Japanese Art collection of over 11,000 items, including about 5500 prints. I found the prints but they are hard to locate chronologically since the dates are poorly indexed. But there are iconic works if you can find them. And high rez too, enough for an inkjet print at over 350ppi at original size.

On preview: what gudrun said.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:00 PM on January 5, 2015


Cooper Hewitt developer (the computer kind) here.

I'm curious why there isn't an umbrella SI API scheme

Speaking only from my perspective, the ground-up approach makes sense for us because it allows us to quickly figure out what works and what doesn't in the context of our collection, and then respond to that. Having this ability in-house also exposes everybody else in the museum to more of what's possible with technology and what the work to make it happen looks like. Here's a good overview of how our API fits in to the big picture.

That said, SI does provide an umbrella-level search interface.

CH's approach is... strange

How can we not be when our collection includes this?
posted by mustardayonnaise at 2:49 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's great that they're doing this, but it bothers me that they're requiring licensing for commercial uses

It's definitely an obstacle for the thing I immediately wanted to do, which is put all the photos on Wikimedia Commons so they can be used on Wikipedia articles, many of which lack good images to illustrate them. Even though Wikipedia is non-commercial, photos on Commons have to permit commercial reuse. On the other hand, Wikipedia considers faithful photographic reproductions of two-dimensional artworks in the public domain to also be public domain, on which basis many of the images of paintings could potentially go on Commons anyway. Not sure how Smithsonian's legal team would feel about that though.

Yeah, it looks like there are multiple indexing problems, but I'm sure that will improve after this initial release.

Yep, if you click to the armor category you end up getting page after page of weapons and only one or two armor items... which also show up when you select the weapons category.

I also really really hate that you can't have different searches going in different windows/tabs -- it remembers what your search query is across tabs. And if you open an item in a new tab, the link to go back to the search doesn't work.

All complaints aside, this is really truly awesome work, and I hope all museums go this route, though I recognize that many do not have the resources or expertise to do so. So many fragile items cannot go on display, and these images will give people a chance to see such items in glorious detail for the first time. The scroll paintings alone are amazing to see. It's a late Christmas present for art historians.
posted by hyperbolic at 6:54 PM on January 5, 2015


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