2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday December 13, 2022

Updated on Tuesday December 13, 2022

portrait of Martina Pichler

Martina Pichler

Head of department Collections Online , Albertina

portrait of Douglas McCarthy

Douglas McCarthy

Collections Engagement Manager , Europeana Foundation

Vienna’s Albertina Museum goes open access

In summer 2022, Vienna’s Albertina Museum put thousands of its digitised images into the public domain, many of which are available through the Europeana website. Douglas McCarthy interviews Martina Pichler to learn about the new open access policy and its benefits.

A man in robes stands in a study, holding a dish and staring out a window
Title:
Faust in der Studierstube
Creator:
Peter Johann Krafft
Institution:
Albertina
Country:
Austria

What inspired the Albertina’s open access policy?

The desire to share the works of our comprehensive collection with our fellow human beings and the curiosity to see what happens. We are excited to see in which contexts the works will be seen, how they will serve online users, which questions they will raise, and with which content they will be associated. As Klaus Albrecht Schröder, Albertina’s Director General, put it, ‘If art is objectively in the world, it's not there to hibernate in storage, but to become visible, audible, and legible.’

The Albertina sees making its collections accessible to the public as one of its core tasks, not only within the framework of exhibitions, but also by digital means and without limitations, within the legal framework of copyright. We want our fellow human beings to be able to express their creativity, answer scientific questions, and realise entrepreneurial ideas with our works, without restriction and in the clear context of free use. Admittedly, it also gives us pleasure when our works are seen more often.

What benefits do you think open access will bring to the Albertina? How do you measure this? 

The decision to adopt an open access policy was made at the Albertina more or less independently of such considerations. Rather, it seemed to us as a museum – with the clear intention of communicating art and bringing it closer to people – that there was no alternative to releasing our works as liberally as possible for research and innovation. To quantify the benefits of this approach for our organisation is, in some respects, beyond the scope of conventional evaluation schemes. Of course, it is possible to evaluate and assess results in certain areas, but these results are only one piece of a puzzle that needs to be considered.

Seeing people engaging with Albertina artworks, becoming inspired and creative is a big part of the desired outcome, without it necessarily being possible to capture in numbers.

Multicoloured shapes against a canvas
Title:
Raster
Creator:
Wassily Kandinsky
Date:
1923
Institution:
Albertina
Country:
Vienna
Multicoloured shapes against a canvas

Who do you expect to benefit most from the open access policy?

We think that researchers and students will be among the first to benefit from our open access policy. Every researcher knows about the great effort that clarifying image rights entails. The Albertina has always tried to support scientific research by providing the widest possible access – so labelling the works with the Public Domain Mark was the next logical step. 

Another priority for us is that educators should be able to use our works freely for teaching and knowledge transfer. In this context, Austria’s national aggregator Kulturpool and Europeana Foundation are important supporters of these wonderful efforts. Numerous examples show us that public domain works empower teachers and drive educational outreach. It is our goal to reach as many people as possible through this strategy and to inspire them with art.

Do you think the open policy will impact the museum’s commercial activities?

Yes, the open policy will certainly influence our commercial activities. But we are very confident that it will do so in a positive sense. This field has been undergoing sustained change since the onset of digitisation, and we will see how it is composed in the future.  In fact, with our open policy, we believe we are in a position to break new ground.

A hare
Title:
Feldhase
Creator:
Albrecht Dürer
Date:
1502
Institution:
Albertina
Country:
Austria
A hare

Will the Albertina engage with open data communities like Wikipedia?

This is actually a planned next step. We think that the use of our works could significantly help to further improve the educational value of Wikipedia articles. For example, a Wikipedia article about printmaking techniques could be presented with a selection of works produced in the respective technique.

Furthermore, we are convinced that a cooperation of Wikipedians with our experts would be mutually beneficial in any case. The point is to bundle knowledge and make it freely available for use. For absolutely everyone. Everywhere in the world.

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