Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Met Opens Its Photo Archives

Last week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its bank of over 375,000 high-res images to the public.  All images of public-domain artworks in the Museum's collection are now available for free and unrestricted use. You can read the press release here.

Quilt, Split Bars Pattern, Amish maker, c. 1930

Along with the images are detailed texts explaining the provenance of the piece and its significance. For the quilt above, the accompanying text reads, in part,

"In the 1971 Whitney Museum exhibition "Abstract Design in American Quilts," boldly graphic quilts like these were compared to American modern abstract paintings. This exhibition set off a rush of Amish quilt collecting; the Museum acquired its first Amish quilts in 1973. In the early days of collecting, the outside world knew little about the traditions of the Amish communities. For this reason, and because most elaborately quilted mainstream American quilts were made in the nineteenth century, there was a tendency to date many of the Amish quilts to the latter part of the nineteenth century. As scholarship progressed, however, it became clear that the vast majority of the Amish quilts seen today in collections and publications were made in the first four decades of the twentieth century. The Amish came to the practice of quilt-making about fifty years after the height of its popularity in the outside world, and employed both quilting motifs and some patterns well after the peak of their use among other quilt makers."

While you're on the Met's website, you can check out other on-line features, like the full six seasons of The Artist Project.
"The Artist Project asks artists to reflect on what art is and what inspires them from across 5,000 years of art. Their unique and passionate ways of seeing and experiencing art reveal the power of a museum and encourage all visitors to look in a personal way."
For example, I clicked on Vik Muniz, a favourite artist, and watched a short clip showing him exploring the  Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art. Muniz explained that the Center is more like a storage facility. He likes its "transgressive" quality: no single item is spotlighted as being worth his time. No curator filters what the viewer can or should see.

Another section of the website, 82nd and 5th,

"asks 100 curators to talk about 100 works of art that changed the way they see the world. One curator, one work of art, two minutes at a time. This series demonstrates that the voice of authority, up close, is inspirational."
This feature is available as an iPad app, in English and ten other languages.

These initiatives, part of the Met's educational mission, are a great find!

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