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Smithsonian’s Asian art

The Smithsonian’s photographer Neil Greentree works on digitising the collection. Photo: Hutomo Wicaksono, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian.

Julia Halperin, Smithsonian’s Asian art collection goes online, The Art Newspaper, 15 December 2014

More than 40,000 works have been digitised and will be fully accessible to the public in the New Year

The Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art in Washington, DC, are due to release their entire collections online on 1 January 2015. More than 40,000 works, from ancient Chinese jades to 13th-century Syrian metalwork and 19th-century Korans, will be accessible through high-resolution images without copyright restrictions for non-commercial use. The vast majority—nearly 35,000 objects—have never been seen by the public.

The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are the first Smithsonian museums and the only Asian art museums to complete the labour-intensive process of digitising and releasing their entire collections online. The project, completed over the past several years, is “driven in part by our director, in part by the Smithsonian’s digitisation efforts, and in part by President Obama’s push for open access of federal data”, says a spokeswoman. The endeavour required 6,000 staff-hours in the past year alone and resulted in more than 10 terabytes of data.