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An Amsterdam museum throws open its doors with a vast digital catalog

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Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is open to the public in more ways than one: over the past few years, it's begun a monumental attempt to digitize and release high-resolution copies of its art collection. Digitization has become common among museums, but many attempt to keep a tight rein on the works, offering only low-resolution images to maintain the grandeur of the original or prevent knockoff postcards and t-shirts. In the Rijksmuseum online collection, however, over a hundred thousand images are available for high-resolution download.

"We're a public institution, and so the art and objects we have are, in a way, everyone's property," director of collections Taco Dibbits tells The New York Times in an excellent overview of the museum's work. "With the Internet, it's so difficult to control your copyright or use of images that we decided we'd rather people use a very good high-resolution image of the ‘Milkmaid' from the Rijksmuseum rather than using a very bad reproduction."