CMA Open Access: Celebrating Our Fourth Anniversary

Cleveland Museum of Art
CMA Thinker
Published in
6 min readJan 20, 2023


From the Digital Innovations and Technology Services team

Looking Back

It’s hard to believe that January marks four years of open access at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Since the 2019 launch the CMA continues to invest in its open access program, inspired by Director William Griswold’s words announcing the CMA’s open access program and the museum’s commitment to its mission to “create transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.” According to Jane Alexander, CDIO, “Each year the reach of our open access program which utilizes a CC0 designation has increased exponentially, and we are taking this time to reflect on how we have shared the wealth of this program with the world.” To celebrate the past four years, we are highlighting engagement so far, and looking to what will be new in 2023.

Director William Griswold and Chief Digital Information Officer Jane Alexander at the 2019 Open Access launch event

January 1, 2019, marked the date when content resumed entering the public domain after a hiatus of more than twenty years as a result of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. Coinciding with this, on January 23 thousands of images and metadata of CMA artworks became available for all to remix, reuse, and reimagine through open access. This release was not an end point, but a launching pad, and we are constantly working to improve the program’s offerings.

For a refresher on our award-winning open access program, see our launch video from 2019: Open Access + CMA

The Data Speaks for Itself

Among the CMA’s leading contributions to open access is its Live Online Dashboards. The dashboards track engagement and usage of its open access data and digital assets on the museum’s and select partners’ platforms. Other statistics are tracked on partner websites. The numbers are staggering. Engagement has grown year after year as open access content finds new audiences in undiscovered corners of the Internet, becomes hyperlinked, and is shared the world over. The CMA, a museum in the heartland of America, has local, regional, and international reach — all proven by the numbers. The expanded reach of the collection means more eyes are on it; the CMA is constantly receiving insights, corrections, and information about our collection objects from researchers and scholars who can offer their expertise to improve our collection data.

Highlighted statistics (totals since 2019 as of January 2023):

These statistics significantly demonstrate that open access thrives by sharing data and the collection with aligned partners who bring the CMA’s collection to their communities of interest. The CMA believes that people should create, enjoy, and study artworks from its open access collection on their preferred platforms, whether that is the CMA’s own collection online or elsewhere.

CMA Open Access with Cleveland Public Libraries

Image courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library

CMA Open Access resources are available for anyone to use. This year we are excited to extend them further into the Cleveland community. We have partnered with the Cleveland Public Library to offer links to these resources on the webpage of the CPL’s TechCentral MakerSpace, a creative and collaborative design and fabrication space that allows you to turn your ideas into reality. The MakerSpace is available to all Cleveland Public Library and CLEVNET member library-card holders. To access the TechCentral MakerSpace, you will need a library card in good standing and a photo ID. Makers can use the CMA’s open access collection to create 3-D models, digital artwork and much more. Stay tuned for even further collaboration between CMA open access and the Cleveland Public Library in 2023.

New Views

The CMA is excited to add new artworks to its open access offering each year. In 2023, multiple objects from Tiffany Studios became open access. Notable are works for Tiffany designed by the Ohio artist Clara Wolcott Driscoll.

Pansy Border Table Lamp, c. 1902–10. Probably by Clara Wolcott Driscoll (American, 1861–1944), Tiffany Studios (America, New York, 1902–32). Leaded glass, blown glass, bronze; overall: 40.6 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Charles Maurer, 2018.266
Trivet, c. 1902–9. Attributed to Clara Wolcott Driscoll (American, 1861–1944), Tiffany Studios (America, New York, 1902–32). Glass, mosaic, bronze; 1.3 x 17.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Charles Maurer, 2018.278

Four Terabytes of Additional Open Access Images

In addition to new artwork images, we are tripling the total number of images offered by making the additional views of each artwork available for download. This means an additional four terabytes of 2-D images are now available from the CMA’s collection online, providing additional and detailed views of artworks, and older imaging when available to show multiple angles of each object. The availability of these expanded resources is due to the generosity of Tracy and Kevin Goodman of BlueBridge Networks, which supplies the storage of the CMA’s wealth of open access resources.

Screen capture of the CMA’s collection online page for Krishna Lifting Mount Govardhan, c. 600. Southern Cambodia, Takeo Province, Phnom Da. Sandstone; 203.1 x 68 x 55.5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund, 1973.106

With the launch of the CMA’s redesigned website in the spring of 2023, conservation images along with condition information will also be available on collection online, pulling from our new conservation digital asset management system.

API 3.0

The updated API will become a faster, streamlined resource, will include image similarity search, the ability to fine-tune returned data, and alternate images in API responses.

Expanding 3-D

The CMA has 72 open access 3-D models and more to come as the museum continues to enhance and grow its 3-D digitization program of its collections to meet audiences in metaverse and video game environments. In the next five years, we are working to expand the collection of 3-D models to 1,000 objects. See our third anniversary blog post, Art from All Angles, for a look at some collection highlights in 3-D.

In the exhibition China through the Magnifying Glass: Masterpieces in Miniature and Detail, 3-D models of select objects in miniature are animated to reveal the details, intricacies, and significance of the small objects on view.

Open Access Experiences

In the 2021–22 exhibition Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain, an open access 3-D model supported multiple immersive experiences, resulting in the highest overall experience rating of a special exhibition at the CMA in recent years, with 97% of visitors rating the exhibition excellent or outstanding.

Visitors in the final stop of the HoloLens experience in Revealing Krishna

The CMA’s 3-D models will continue to be used in immersive experiences for content in a classroom setting, and we will be sharing CMA 3-D models with Interactive Commons at Case Western Reserve University to create immersive educational experiences in art history classes, including one focused on medieval artworks.

Dr. Maggie Popkin from Case Western Reserve University teaching art history students about the ancient temples on the Greek island of Samothrace using mixed reality. Photo credit: Interactive Commons, Case Western Reserve University, Emory University and the American Excavations Samothrace.

Looking Forward

In this last year our open access program expanded its reach further with a goal to join 100 open platforms in the next five years. Notably, this year we added open access artwork to MAP Interwoven and began a partnership with Google Arts and Culture. The Cleveland Museum of Art is enthusiastic about the next steps for its open access program throughout 2023 and beyond. The museum encourages creators and learners to utilize its open access collections for their interests via the CMA open access homepage Researchers have used the API for activities like data visualization, and makers are able to freely remix and reuse artwork. What will you do with open access? Share it on social media and tag #cmaopenaccess.

Special thanks to BlueBridge Networks’ Tracy and Kevin Goodman whose love for art and culture and all things Cleveland contribute mightily to support the CMA’s open access policy, helping us serve many by sharing our collection with the world, and extending our mission to create transformative experiences through art, “for the benefit of all the people forever” well into the twenty-first century.