Smithsonian makes millions of images free to the public

Aircraft on black background (National Air and Space Museum)
This image of U.S. aviator Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B aircraft is among 2.8 million images now available through the Smithsonian's website. (National Air and Space Museum)

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian Institution — the world’s largest museum, education and research complex — has released 2.8 million high-resolution images from across its collections onto an open-access online platform for all to use and download free of charge. This means people around the world can use any of these two- and three-dimensional images for their own creative purposes.

Free use of art and literature after a set period of time is a core tenet of U.S. copyright law, which balances the right of creators to be paid for their work with the preservation of cultural artifacts for future generations to use and enjoy.

Portrait photo of Harriet Tubman sitting (National Museum of African American History and Culture); sculpture of woman on throne (Smithsonian American Art Museum); painted portrait of George Washington standing with hand outstretched (National Portrait Gallery)
Some of the millions of images available online, from left: Harriet Tubman (National Museum of African American History and Culture); “The Death of Cleopatra” by Edmonia Lewis (Smithsonian American Art Museum); Lansdowne portrait of George Washington (National Portrait Gallery).