Case Studies/Highlights from SMK, The National Gallery of Denmark

From Creative Commons
Jump to: navigation, search

License Used
cc by, smk, statens museum for kunst, national gallery, denmark, google art project, images, moving images, youtube, educational, public domain


Evaluation Information.png
Page Importance:
Page Quality:
SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), The National Gallery of Denmark, has released digital images of 160 highlights, and 100 educational videos on YouTube under the CC BY license. The 160 images and 100 videos are also featured in the Google Art Project. The artworks are free of copyright, but the digital images of them have so far been under copyright restrictions. From now on, they are freely available to our users for any purpose. As a national gallery, we believe that those parts of our collections that are in the Public Domain belong to everyone. With this limited selection of content, we want to test how people use these freely available digital resources in new creative and innovative ways.

Like other museum institutions SMK is used to being seen as a gatekeeper of cultural heritage. But our collections do not belong to us. They belong to the public. Free access ensures that our collections continue to be relevant to users now and in the future. Our motivation for sharing digitized images freely is to allow users to contribute their knowledge and co-create culture. In this way, SMK wishes to be a catalyst for the users' creativity. — Karsten Ohrt, Director of SMK


SMK has released a selection of digital images of 160 highlights from our collections of Danish, Nordic and European art that are in the Public Domain. Furthermore, we have licensed approximately 100 educational videos providing insight into some of the artworks.

The collections at SMK comprise three main collections: The Royal Collection of Painting and Sculpture, The Royal Collection of Graphic Art, and The Royal Collection of Plaster Casts. As the names suggest, these collections have their roots in the art collections of Danish monarchs; they are believed to date back to King Christian II and the mid-16th century.

The Collection of Sculpture and Painting comprises approximately 10,500 paintings and sculptures, while the Collection of Graphic Art houses more than 245,000 works of art on paper. In addition to this, approximately 2,500 plaster casts are housed at the Royal Cast Collection.

New works are added to the collections every year. Generous donations and acquisitions have shaped the profile of the collections in recent years, but the starting point remains the collections built by Danish monarchs.

SMK is the national gallery of Denmark and is funded by the Danish state.

License Usage

CC BY 3.0


Thanks to a generous donation from Nordeafonden in 2008, SMK has been able to focus serious attention on following the groundbreaking development in digital media that is happening these years, and that profoundly influences museums' work, identity, and role in society.

A strong tendency in global museum practice is free access to and sharing of digitized resources. Creative Commons is an obvious tool for SMK to make use of as it helps users to easily find our resources and know that they can use them without resrictions. Compared to the vast amounts of digital images that institutions like Yale University, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Rijksmuseum have released, it is a small contribution. But it is a first step to test effects and consequences.

We have chosen to use the Creative Commons license CC BY on the digital images of 160 artworks that are all free of copyright. We are aware that it is a bit of a paradox to put a license on images of artworks that are in the Public Domain. As stated in the Europeana Public Domain Charter: "Digitisation of Public Domain knowledge does not create new rights over it".

However, as a first step SMK has chosen to apply the CC BY license in order to stress the importance of crediting the source correctly when using our images. People are free to use the 160 images for any purpose, including commercial ones, as long as they refer back to SMK, because we would like other users to be able to easily track where the original artworks are and where they can find additional information and tools pertaining to them. This is a way of caring for the cultural heritage that SMK is responsible for.

In a recent survey, one of our users made a statement about his relation to SMK: "This is my art. This is my history". As a national gallery we see it as one of our premier tasks to provide access for everyone to our shared cultural heritage. It belongs to us all.


To follow up on the release of the 160 images and 100 videos, we are planning initiatives that will invite users to make use of the images in new, creative contexts. These initiatives will be evaluated to map the effects of free access to this digital resource will have for different user groups. Will it be a help for teachers and researchers? Will it make the artworks more visible on the internet, for instance in blogs, in Wikipedia articles, in social media, in YouTube videos etc.? Will it inspire new and unexpected creative initiatives?

One important aspect of using a Creative Commons license that allows commercial reuse is that we are able to enrich Wikimedia Commons, and subsequently Wikipedia articles, with high quality images of artworks from SMK.

We asked Ole Palnatoke Andersen from Wikipedia Denmark for a comment on what this will mean:

"When SMK releases images of 160 artworks under CC BY, it means that we in Wikipedia (as well as the other Wikimedia projects) are able to write better articles about both the artists, the artwokrs, and the motifs. One example: In 1646, Jan van Goyen painted a prospect of the city of Arnhem. This image is not only fit to illustrate the article about van Goyen, but also the one about Arnhem, 1646, tonal landscape painting, and tulipomania - not just in Danish, but in all the languages that Wikipedia is available in. Furthermore, images and texts can be reused elsewhere on the Internet to the benefit of many more users."

Technical Details

The 160 images of highlights from SMK's collections are released for free download in the highest available resolution that the museum currently has at its disposal. The image files range from approximately 10 MB up to 440 MB. They are both available as separate files and for bulk download in a zip-file.


This is an example of one the 160 highlights, that are available for free download: Filippino Lippi (c. 1457-1504), The Meeting of Joachim and Anne outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, 1497.