Museums care for millions of objects that are in the Public Domain; that is, images of the objects are available for you to reproduce and remix. This Instructable will show you how to find and download images from artsmia.org, the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s website, but other museum websites are often similar.
Step 1: Search for Art You Like
Most museums have good ‘collections’ searches, where you can search by artist, dates, description, or other tags. The search fields are usually made up of information about the art from the museum’s art database, so there’s often great information about an artwork’s 'medium' (oil on canvas, bronze), but sometimes the description of the art doesn’t contain colloquial information (there are kittens in this picture).
In our example we’ll search for Utagawa Hiroshige, a master of the Japanese art form ukiyo-e (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroshige).
You can start at collections.artsmia.org , or you can go to artsmia.org and go to Collection, to open the search window that accesses the largest part of Mia's database.
(The magnifying glass icon on the home page of artsmia.org searches some, but not most, of the data fields in Mia's collections database. The Collections search looks at more of the data fields.)
Step 2: Revise Your Search to Find Art With Photos
Once you have a group of artworks you like, you can refine your search to see what’s in the public domain. On artsmia.org, a search for Utagawa Hiroshige yields 1096 results; the Filter Search button can refine our search further. In the Image column of Filter Search, select Available - this will show only search results with photos.
Step 3: Revise Your Search to Find Public Domain Art
Then in the Rights tab, select Public Domain; this will show the images that are in the Public Domain. All of Hiroshige’s artworks are in the public domain, because they were published in the 1800s.
Step 4: Download What You Like
Select the image you want to open it on its own page. You’ll see both ‘download’ and ‘print’ icons. If you select the download icon, you’ll open a new page with a version of the image that’s 800 pixels on the long side. If that’s enough picture for you, keep that.
Step 5: More Pixels!
If you’d like more pixels, try this: you’ll see that the web address for the image points to a folder called 800, i.e http://4.api.artsmia.org/800/8152.jpg . if you change the 800 in that address to ‘full’, i.e. http://4.api.artsmia.org/full/8152.jpg , you’ll get the full-resolution image that artsmia.org has. Only public domain images are stored on this server at their full resolution - images still in copyright are stored at much smaller sizes.
Step 6: Make Something!
Here's a phone stand engraved with Katsuskiha Hokusai's 'Under the Great Wave off Kangawa.' I'll make an Instructable for that soon, and put a link here when it's done.