Yale offers open access to millions of resources

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Yale University is planning to become the first Ivy League school to offer an open access commons to millions of digital images from its archives, all free of licenses for transmission or use.

So far the university has digitized 250,000 of 1.5 million records they have pulled, but they expect the number to grow substantially as they continue through their catalogs. The collections go from art to zoology and include resources that range from a small limestone stela with hieroglyphic inscription from the Peabody Museum of Natural History, a Mozart sonata in the composer's own hand from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and a watercolor by William Blake from the collection of prints and drawings in the Yale Center for British Art.

“That Yale has achieved the goal of making its collections available online to students, scholars, and the general public, in a free and open-access environment, is a splendid achievement that we hope will inspire other colleges and universities internationally to follow suit," said Amy Meyers, director of the Yale Center for British Art. “The ability to publish images directly from our online catalogues without charge will encourage the increased use of our collections for scholarship, a benefit to which we look forward with the greatest excitement."

The Yale art collections are world-renowned and the university's library system is the world's seventh largest, with over 10 million volumes and many more manuscripts and documents across 18 libraries. The Peabody Museum of Natural History collections include more than 12 million specimens and objects. This new open access policy will be of great benefit to scholars, artists, and educators across disciplines and around the world.

“High costs of reproduction rights have traditionally limited the ability of scholars, especially ones early in their careers, to publish richly illustrated books and articles in the history of art, architecture, and material and visual culture," said Mariet Westermann, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Yale’s new policy provides an important model to follow."

The Cross Collection Discovery search portion of the Yale Digital Commons is built on open source tools and platforms, including Apache Solr, VuFind, OAICat, OAI-PMH, CDWA-Lite, Darwin Core, Dublin Core, and MARCXML.

Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and parenting.

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