The Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery have an amazing gift for the world in 2015: a newly available collection of 40,000 digitized Asian and American artworks. The Smithsonian says its vast collection has mostly never been seen by the public, and the institution is making the collection available for free public use. The art dates from the Neolithic period to present day; the Smithsonian says the collection includes "1,806 American art objects, 1,176 ancient Egyptian objects, 2,076 ancient Near Eastern objects, 10,424 Chinese objects, 2,683 Islamic objects, 1,213 South and Southeast Asian objects, and smaller groupings of Korean, Armenian, Byzantine, Greek and Roman works."
The release is part of an extensive effort by the Smithsonian to make its resources available beyond its prominent physical presence on Washington D.C.'s National Mall. The institution says the work resulted in more than 10 terabytes of data and 50,000 images.
"We're poised at a digital tipping point, and the nature of what it means to be a museum is changing," said Director Julian Raby. "We strive to promote the love and study of Asian art, and the best way we can do so is to free our unmatched resources to inspire appreciation, academic study, and artistic creation."
You can gawk at a portion of the impressive collection below, and check out the rest of the Smithsonian's stunning possessions at its website.
- Plaque depicting a king offering wine; Egypt, possibly Ptolemaic dynasty, 305–30 BCE; soft limestone
- Lacquer box; China, Ming dynasty, Yongle reign, 1403–24; carved red lacquer (tihong) on wood core
- Thunder god; Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849); Japan, Edo period, 1847; ink and color on paper
- Vietnamese and Khmer ceramics from the Hauge Collection
- Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room; James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903); 1876–77; oil paint and gold leaf on canvas, leather, and wood
- Shiva Nataraja; India, Chola dynasty, ca. 990; bronze
- Woman with a spray of flowers; Iran, Safavid period, ca. 1575; opaque watercolor and gold on paper