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portrait of Douglas McCarthy

Douglas McCarthy

Collections Manager, Art & Photography , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Philippe Riviere

Philippe Riviere

Deputy Director of Development, Head of Digital and Communications , Paris Musées

Paris Musées embraces open access

In a major step towards greater open access in France, Paris Musées is releasing its digital collections into the public domain with a CC0 waiver. Europeana's Douglas McCarthy spoke with Philippe Rivière, Head of Communication and Digital at Paris Musées, to find out more.

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English language interface of the Paris Musées collections online - Paris Musées


Paris Musées



Tell us all about the Paris Musées open access announcement.

From January 2020, Paris Musées will begin releasing digital images of its out-of-copyright works into the public domain under the Creative Commons CC0 waiver. Our first release numbers more than 150,000 images and other sets will follow. We are publishing the material set by set so that the copyright status of the artworks and photographs can be carefully evaluated.

Which collections and what type of images are being openly released?

Paris Musées manages the fourteen museums of the City of Paris and altogether the collection numbers over a million artworks. From archaeology to fashion and contemporary art, the collections are remarkably diverse and they are still being digitised. Since May 2016 our collections have been accessible online at

What motivated Paris Musées to adopt open access now?

Paris Musées has been working on its open access strategy for some time and discussions intensified during the development of our collections website. Our project team was aware of the international Open GLAM movement and we wanted to make our own contribution to it. 

Paris Musées’s contract with our photo agency ends on 31 December 2019 so we needed to start thinking about the future. We saw this moment as an opportunity to regain control of how we manage our digital images – a new beginning for our image publishing strategy began!

Item page on the new Paris Musées collections online - Paris Musées


Paris Musées



How was the policy developed? Who were the key players?

Over a number of years, we worked through different scenarios that we could imagine for our images. This project team was composed of staff from departments across the organisation, including digital, collections, legal, iconographers, museum directors and so on.

Each scenario was evaluated against international benchmarks and then analysed in relation to Paris Musées in term of costs, personnel organisation, user legibility, etc. Gradually we eliminated some scenarios and focused more closely on others; we kept working to find the best scenario.

How do you evaluate the copyright status of your collections? Who’s involved?

As I stated earlier, determining the copyright status of our material is a critical step in our open access practice. We prefer to publish slowly, set by set, so we have time to fully evaluate the status of each image. This time-consuming task is done by our database manager team, in partnership with an iconographer, determining whether images are suitable for open access release.

How will you measure the impact of open access?

We will monitor the impact of our publication activities carefully. This will include web analytics, naturally, but we also want to see how we can best stimulate creativity through, for instance, hosting events in our museums to engage digital start-ups, or engaging citizens to reuse and remix our images.

Paris Musées has already participated to events such as the API Culture Day in June organised by Diane Dubray, when I presented on the different kind of API that Paris Musées uses, from calendars to collections.

Does Paris Musées have an API yet?

Paris Musées will release an API in January 2020, to coincide with the release of our first image set, supported by full documentation. At this point, I can only tell you that we decided to use GraphQL.

Item page on the new Paris Musées collections online - Paris Musées


Paris Musées



Will you also publish and expose open data on external platforms like Wikimedia Commons, CC Search and Europeana?

Yes, we’ll be announce partnerships to help us disseminate our images beyond our own platform – so look out for more details soon.

Who are the main open access influencers in France?

The open access community in France has become stronger, more visible and more active recently. It’s great! It is always inspiring and stimulating to meet a community when you start thinking about a project. 

The influencers are very diverse. Some are in cultural institutions like INHA – whose chief curator Martine Denoyelle led the publication of the white paper Droits des images,n histoire de l’art et société or Antoine Courtin, INHA’s Head of Documentation  and Johanna Daniel– whilst others are private researchers and entrepreneurs like Diane Drubay or Pierre-Yves Lochon.

What advice would you give to other French museums considering open access?

It’s hard to give advice on this topic because embracing open access is a huge change for cultural institutions. Revolution is different from one country to another so I can’t really say where to start and with whom. It’s a long path with many challenges so just focus on the goal and don’t lose faith!