Antonia Canova's The Three Graces - a digital image in the V&A collection that will be free for academics to use in future. © V&A
The Victoria and Albert Museum has announced that it will no longer charge academics and scholars for using its digital images – a move that could have major implications for art publishing.
The new policy comes into place in order to bolster the museum’s commitment to providing access to its collections, but it will mean that some revenue is lost (possibly over £100,000 a year). It may also put pressure on other major institutions to end charging for image downloads, a practice up to now jealously guarded by many of the big UK galleries.
From early 2007, visitors to the Collections Online database at www.vam.ac.uk will be able to easily download hi-resolution images free of charge, providing they are for academic use. The definition of this will be quite broad, but the finer aspects of the policy’s implementation have yet to be set in stone.
The V&A image library contains everything from Arts and Crafts movement wallpaper samples to Sixties fashion shots and cutting edge designs. © V&A
“We want to respond to the needs of the academic and education community by making collection images available with greater convenience and minimum cost,” said Mark Jones, Director of the V&A. “High charges have acted as a barrier to spreading knowledge and we want to play a part in removing this.”
University press publications and academic journal will benefit from the new policy as well as students and teachers, who are encourage by the museum to use its images in their coursework and research. Non-commercial art journal publications and catalogues may also have fees waived.
“This is a really good opportunity to offer images of items in our collection to a needy community,” said Andrea Stern, Head of V&A Images. “We really want to support people who are working on scholarly and academic projects.”
B3 Club Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer, 1925 - from the 2006 Modernism exhibition. at the V&A. © V&A
Collections Online already provides more than 25,000 images, with photography reflecting the diverse range of items held by the V&A. The online database is a rich source for pictures of paintings, photographs, textiles, fashion, costume, ceramics, furniture, glass, sculpture and design, as well as images from the performing arts, the Museum of Childhood and the National Art Library.
More free images will be added continuously, the V&A says – many objects are still to be photographed and digitised.
Digital images available to download for free will be 300dpi and up to A5 in size. Requests for larger images or different formats not available through Collections Online will, as before, be handled by V&A Images www.vandaimages.com, incurring the usual administrative charges.