Reviewed April 2014
Cynthia L. Gregory, Librarian III and Head of Electronic Resources
Archbishop Alter Library, College of Mount St. Joseph

hareOCPThe Getty Open Content Program (OCP) is a critical scholarly effort which makes high resolution digital images, drawn from the J. Paul Getty Museum collections and the public domain, freely available to search and download through the Getty Search Gateway and the museum’s collection webpages. Since its initial release in August of 2013, with approximately 5,000 images, the program today offers 10,000+ images from subject areas ranging from decorative arts, illuminated manuscripts, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and photographs, to rare sixteenth-century prints. The Getty’s move toward such open access is motivated by a desire to promote creativity, research, and exchange of ideas for students, instructors, artists, and scholars. More importantly perhaps is the fact that these images are available for use without restriction. All images are at a minimum 300dpi with bibliographic records including a thumb nail and enlarged view options. OCP images, whether found via the Getty Search Gateway or the Museum’s general Collections search, are clearly marked as downloadable without charge within each image record.

The most efficient starting point for searching the OCP is the Getty Search Gateway home page where there are two direct access points to the OCP collection–a link in the lower right hand column and as a featured resource in the revolving “highlights” section. Given the importance of this collection to researchers, the Getty should consider raising the visibility by including the OCP in the “Browse our Collections by source” section.

getty search gateway

These direct links provide an immediate full listing of all OCP images without the need to limit by collection source, which is an extra step required when browsing by topic or keyword search. The search interface offers a number of helpful display and re-order options, convenient sharing options through social bookmarking, and the ability to email image records and search histories. The facets allow one to limit by media, topic, name, place, and collection source. The OCP content is also available through the Museum’s general Collections search page but the main disadvantage is that the general Collections search portal lacks the Getty Search Gateway’s advanced search features, including a limit by collection source, which will likely result in researchers examining each item’s bibliographic record to determine if it is designated as an OCP downloadable image.

As with any open image resource, it is important to read the fine print regarding terms of use. Though there are no restrictions over how researchers may use, modify, or re-purpose the open content images, the Getty requests researchers to follow some basic attribution protocol. For example, when researchers download an image, they are asked to indicate their status (e.g., private individual, not-for-profit organization, for-profit company, etc.) and their intended use of the image (e.g., publication, personal, noncommercial, commercial, etc.). For those researchers planning to use images for publication purposes, the Getty requires the researcher’s contact information, the publication title, and date of publication. As a courtesy, the Getty requests a copy of the publication. These protocols are very reasonable considering the generous availability the Getty has made of its collection.

The trend in unlocking digital collections to the public has resulted in thousands of collections being made freely available, e.g., the Wellcome Library’s collection recent move of making available 100,000+ medical history images. Consequently, more and more researchers are expecting such access. Thus, the Getty Open Content Program is both a vital contribution to art research and critical model for other collections to follow. As the OCP continues to grow, this treasure trove of art images has far reaching collaborative and educational applications toward student learning, faculty teaching, scholarly inquiry, artistic creation, and general public interest.


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