10 fantastic open access Indian heritage collections
The Heritage Lab
May 31 · 4 min read
Image: Krishna and his family admire a Solar Eclipse , folio from a Bhagavata Purana (detail) India, Himachal Pradesh, Kangra, 1775–80, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, CC0]
A compilation by Douglas McCarthy and Medhavi Gandhi
India’s remarkable cultural heritage features in the collections of museums around the world. Here are ten of our favourite open access digital collections — free to download, reuse and remix to your heart’s content. If we missed any, let us know in the comments!
1 . The Cleveland Museum of Art
Radha and Krishna meet in the forest during a storm, c. 1770 , India, Bengal, Mughal, 18th century. The Cleveland Museum of Art, CC0
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Indian and Southeast Asian collection is celebrated nationally and internationally. It comprises three broad areas: India proper, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia, and the collection covers the period of the entire artistic activity on the Indian subcontinent from the earliest (Neolithic) period until the 20th century.
Explore Indian collections at The Cleveland Museum of Art.
2 . The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Śankh, 19th century. Kerala State, India. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0
The Metropolitan Museum of Art devotes some 64,500 square feet of gallery space to the presentation of Asian Art, including paintings, calligraphy, prints, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, lacquers, works of decorative art, and textiles from East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Himalayan kingdoms, and Southeast Asia.
Explore Indian collections at The Met.
3. Wellcome Collection
A Mughal empress or member of a royal family: three quarter profile. Gouache painting by an Indian painter. 19th century. Wellcome Collection, Public Domain Mark.
London’s Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we all think and feel about health. Wellcome is one of the UK’s most progressive open access institutions and holds an extensive archive of material relating to Indian history and culture. From Company School-paintings to photochromes, there is a range of art to explore.
Explore Indian heritage at Wellcome Collection
4. Brooklyn Museum
Zumurrud Shah Takes Refuge in the Mountains. Mughal Dynasty, c. 1570. Brooklyn Museum, No known copyright restrictions.
Brooklyn Museum is a longstanding advocate of open access (AKA ‘Open GLAM’) and the free exchange of cultural heritage and ideas among people of diverse beliefs, cultures, and experiences.
Explore the Indian collection at the Brooklyn Museum
5. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian)
Raja Mandhata as a musical mode. Nurpur, Himachal Pradesh state, India. Date: ca. 1690 Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, CC0
In early 2020, the Smithsonian Open Access launched to great acclaim. Amongst the millions of open access collections and data released by the Smithsonian are Indian collections from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Explore the collection
6. New York Public Library
Bengal Horned Pheasant, Satyra Lathami., Illustrations of Indian Zoology, New York Public Library, CC0
In 2016, the New York Public Library released over 1,800,000 items in the public domain. The Indian collection features books, photographs and cartographic collections, and depictions of birds!
Explore the NYPL Indian collection
7. Yale Center for British Art
A Punca Bearer (undated) Sir Charles D’ Oyly 1781–1845, British, active in India , Yale Center for British Art, CC0
This public art museum focuses on the study of British art and culture. Take a look at Indian landscapes and people through the eyes of travelling artists, East India Company officials, and more.
Explore the collection.
8. Art Institute of Chicago
A Monumental Portrait of a Monkey , Mewar, attributed to the Stipple Master, circa 1705–1710, Art Institute of Chicago, CC0
In 2018, the Art Institute of Chicago released more than 40,000 artworks under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. These include a sizeable South Asian collection with works ranging from Gandhara sculptures to Miniatures and Company paintings from the 19th century Fraser album.
Explore the works in the collection
9. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Marriage of Krishna and Rukmini India, Himachal Pradesh, Guler, circa 1800 LACMA CC0
The LACMA collection features more than 1000 Indian art objects ranging from sculpture to textiles and photographs. These objects are released under CC0 license.
Explore the Indian collection at LACMA
10. DAG Museums
Untitled, Kalighat Pat (Anonymous) DAG Museums CC BY SA
Whilst Open GLAM is not yet common in India, there are some positive signs. Last year, DAG Museums released some of its collections on open access terms. Let’s hope for more Indian Open GLAM soon!
We hope you will consider using these open-collections to create a story (in a format of your choice) & share it with us for the Digital Storytelling Festival. Submissions are open till June 15, 2021.
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Committed to providing free-access to cultural content & learning resources from museums, libraries, archives — to inspire, entertain, and engage our audience.
An online event inviting cultural heritage professionals to discover resources and tools to create digital content, explore ways to boost audience engagement online and discover the value of Open GLAM
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