Leisure in Times of Quarantine 😷

Open Culture to the Rescue!

Alicja Peszkowska
Mar 13 · 4 min read
The Artist’s Wife (Périe) Reading, Albert Bartholomé, 1883, Metropolitan Museum of Art (the US)

As Covid-19 infections aggressively spread throughout the world many governments have taken measures to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic. We have been told to stay at home and practise social distancing.

Cultural institutions and big events have been shut down, and most restaurants, bars and public spaces follow suit. The question on everyone’s mind seems to be “What do we do with our newly found time at home, other than binge-watching series?”

Open Culture comes to the rescue!

Millions of digitised cultural works are made available online, some view-only mode, but many — those that form part of Public Domain or have a Creative Commons license — can be downloaded and re-used for whichever purpose (want to paint over them with your kids? Go for it!).

This short digest of what is out there (curated with the current situation in mind) is meant to inspire you to dive into parts of the Internet you have never visited before. Enjoy!

Decameron or what 14 century Italians were up to in the times of Black Death pandemic 📚

Sailko / CC BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

Decameron is a collection of novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio. The 100 tales included in the book are told by a group of seven young women and three young men who flee from the plague-ridden Florence to a deserted villa in the countryside of Fiesole for two weeks. To pass the evenings, each member of the party tells a story each night, except for one day per week for chores, and the holy days during which they do no work at all.

Decameron is available in full online on Wikisource.

Travel into space with NASA’s open images library 👩‍🚀

There exists, I found, a major asteroid named after the Greek goddess of health — 10 Hygiea. I couldn’t come across a picture of this particular asteroid amidst NASA’s resources but there are plenty of others to look at — like this Spacious Structure of Asteroid 2011 MD 👇

NASA has made all its space photographs and videos available online in 2019.

Missing the outside already? Browse through this Biodiversity Heritage Library’s resources to look at what nature has to offer 🔎

The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections. You check more than 15 000 of their resources dating back to the 15th century here. And they run a cool Instagram account too!

Queen’s lady’s-slipper from the Biodiversity’s Flickr Library

In doctors we trust — Rembrandt pays tribute to medicine 🎨

In his early masterpiece “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp” Rembrandt depicts doctor Tulp explaining the musculature of the arm to medical professionals. The painting recognizes the growing power of informed principles of medical science in the pre-Enlightenment period and the importance of teaching those principles to a greater audience. The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp is exhibited in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague but you can also find it on Wikimedia Commons. If you like Dutch masters of painting, I can also recommend a visit the Rijksmuseum’s (Amsterdam) website which makes it easy for you to browse through all of their digitised collections.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Rembrandt,1632, Mauritshuis Museum (Netherlands)

Health-related objects in our more recent heritage 🧼

The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex also allow you to browse through its resources and play with them for free. For the lovers of more practical, fashion and design-focused heritage, I have dug out this soap (just to underline the importance of washing our hands!), a ceramics hospital ashtray (sic!), and a nurse’s dress uniform. Among 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from their collections, you will definitely find something of interest.

Vintage Soap bar in its original packaging, the Smithsonian (the US)

Representing — the times of necessary leisure 🧻

If you need some inspiration for the time you’ will have to spend at home or simply some mirroring of your own experience, I recommend you find solace in numerous beautiful paintings depicting fun and relaxing activities performed solely at one’s own domestic expense.

Stue i Strandgade med solskin på gulvet, Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1901, Statens Museum for Kunst (Denmark)

Here I point you first and foremost to the SMK’s online collection (Nordic weather has been forcing locals to stay home since time immemorial). I’d also like to recommend some of the Metropolitan Art Museum’s (MET’s) digitised public domain resources (pick from the 406.000 available) which were made available in 2017 and Europeana’s (European Commission's Platform for Digital Heritage) over 10 million records.

Mandolinspillersken, Peter Ilsted, 1911, Statens Museum for Kunst (Denmark)

SMK Open

Making the National Gallery’s art collection freely…

Thanks to Merete Sanderhoff

Alicja Peszkowska

Written by

Alicja Peszkowska is a Copenhagen-based consultant, researcher, and a participation strategist focused on technology, digital culture, and social change.

SMK Open

SMK Open

Making the National Gallery’s art collection freely available to everyone — for any purpose, ranging from fun to serious production. The objective is to make art relevant to more people. The project is made possible by Nordea-fonden.

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