Simone Seagle

Simone Seagle

Independent Web and Educational Software Developer

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Open Access Art - Fun, Games, and a Talk

Open Access Art - Fun, Games, and a Talk

June 13, 2018 Simone Seagle

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to give a talk about museum Open Access Collections, how they're different from museums' online collections, and some of the wonderful projects people have come up with using them. If you'd like to look through the slides, they're below. I decided to expound on a little bit of the talk and what I've learned after the slideshow in case you want to learn more as well. The roulette game that I created to go along with the talk can be found here.

Doing the research for this talk was fascinating, so I'd like to share a couple of the things I learned here.

Fun with Image Copyright Laws

I realized early on that I would need to talk a little bit about copyright law in order to explain the difference between regular online collections and Open Access ones properly. This was something I was only vaguely familiar with before, and reading about it made me curious to know more. In US copyright law, everything published longer than 95 years ago (and some newer items without copyright extensions filed) is now in the public domain. However, I noticed that many online collections had much older paintings that were somehow copyrighted by the museum! So how could that be?

In particular, I've always wanted to animate Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian. Even though the painting was done in 1942, it's in the public domain in the US because Mondrian never copyrighted it to begin with. So why is the image on MoMA's website copyrighted and owned by a company called ArtResource? Turns out it's because the PHOTO OF THE ARTWORK THEY TOOK is copyrighted. That blew my mind! I think it's kind of sketchy, but I probably shouldn't be commenting on the ethics involved. Turns out that I can now animate this thing (Woo hoo!) but I'll use the image from Wikipedia which was taken by someone who didn't feel the need to copyright their photo.


When I first started working on the talk, I only knew of a few Open Access collections, but some great people (Douglas McCarthy and Andee Wallace at least) have created a huge list that blew my mind. It has over 300 collections from around the world, their access policies, country of origin, and more. And they're still working on it! What a gift to the community.