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Syracuse University Libraries

Image Access: Museum Websites

A guide for access to high-quality digital images

General Information

Museum websites can be a great source of information on the objects in a museum's collection. This can be especially useful if you are unable to visit the museum in person, or to scope out the collection before a visit. They can also be excellent sources for high-quality images of interesting artifacts or pieces of art! Keep in mind: not all museum websites are made equally. This page will provide a few recommendations for reliable sources of high-quality images and a few suggestions for looking. 

A few tips for using museum websites to find images: 

  • Most museums have some listing of the collection online, which usually include some kind of images of varying quality. This can usually be found under a tab labeled "collection" or "art." 
  • Use filters as they are available. Some museum websites do not have powerful keyword-based search engines and rather tag their pieces with attributes, so this is more likely to produce the desired result. 
  • While many museums may not have downloadable high-quality images available, it is important to use the available museum image as a jumping-off point before pursuing another avenue for the image, especially if you want to visually analyze the piece and have never seen it in-person. The museum website reproduction is much more likely to be an accurate reproduction compared to what a google search may provide. Use another source for the download if needed, but use the museum image as a guide for what will be an accurate reproduction. 

Go-to sources

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 

The Met Museum has done a remarkable job with creating an accessible website that would be an amazing source for all kinds of art images or information. The search engine, under the tab "Art," is easy to use for a quick search or a more advanced dive. You can specify regions, object types, materials, dates, and museum departments during your search. It also offers easy options to only search for listings with images, pieces on display, or available open access images. Open access images would be the best bet for downloading images to use, as many of the non-open access pieces are not available for download even for academic use. Outside of image usage, the museum website also offers in-depth information about each piece, as well as entries in their Timeline of Art History and links to museum publications that are also available for download. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum 

The V&A has a world-renowned collection of decorative arts and artifacts. If you need good images of historical instruments, textiles, prints, ceramics, or anything similar, the V&A will have something for you. Their search engine is also fairly easy to use and offers many filters so you can find exactly the kind of object you need. Searchers also have the option to specify objects with images. These are typically taken by the V&A itself so they own the rights to the images, but you can still download high-quality reproductions for educational purposes. This can be a great option if you want to study a particular object but are unable to visit the collection in-person! 

The Rijksmuseum

This museum has a much more specific collection scope than the previous two museums. Based in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum primarily houses works by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. A large amount of the collection is available online under the "Rijkstudio" tab. After the user creates an account they can download any image they want. This portion of the website also functions as a kind of social media. You can scroll through other people's "rijkstudio" collections that they've curated around certain categories or themes. Overall, it's a fun and very functional website to use to find good images from this time period in art history! 

Other sources

The Van Gogh Museum 

This museum only houses works by Vincent Van Gogh and it is not exhaustive in his work as there are Van Gogh pieces in many other major museums around the world, but if you are looking for reasonably high-quality images by Van Gogh this could be a good source. 

The National Gallery in London 

There isn't a download function on the website but all of the images can be saved through a right-click. There is also the option to zoom into the image and download a closer view. 

The National Gallery of Art in DC

This website has a robust search engine with many advanced search features, including the option to filter only downloadable images that are open access. The museum also offers a guide to their open access policy for clarification on availability and use. 

Museo Del Prado

This search engine is a little confusing, but this website does have many high-quality images available for personal use. If you already know a piece that is in their collection, this would be a good option to find the image. 

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

There are some high quality images available for download, but users cannot filter for open access images and the search engine is not very powerful. This would also be useful if you already knew the piece or kind of piece you need an image for.