Case Study: Rijksmuseum releases 111.000 high quality images to the public domain.

When it come to open cultural heritage data and content, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is widely recognised as a pioneer. What started as an experiment, has now resulted in 111.000 (and counting) high-quality images of famous paintings such as the Nightwatch as well as numerous other works of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goltzius etc. becoming openly available on the web.

In 2011, the Rijksmuseum has started to look into the possibilities of releasing some of their images on the web. At that point the Dutch Open Cultuur Data initiative contacted the museum and asked if they could make some images available for the Apps4Amsterdam competition. At that point, it was decided that also the high quality scans of their most famous works should be made accessible in order to promote the collection of the museum to a wider audience. They continued working on clearing the rights and to get the descriptive information right.
This has now resulted in 111.000 digital images of artworks that are in the public domain that they can offer without any copyright restrictions. The images are made available as a download, but also via an API.

At the end of 2012, this was accompanied with the launch of the Rijksstudio where people can more easily get access to the material and create their own exhibition. It is encouraged to take and reuse the images in any way possible and to share the results with the Rijksmuseum.

At the same time the museum sells images via their image bank. While the high quality images of about 2 mb are freely available, the museum charges a small fee for the huge tiff files of about 150 mb. The museum has indicated that so far they have not seen a drop in the amount of images they sell to commercial companies and they now occasionally sell images to regular users as well.
Also at the tourist shop no decline in sales has been noticed so far.


  • 300.000 people visit the Rijksstudio each month.
  • 500 times a year an API-key is requested
  • 30 apps that use data from the Rijksmuseum can now be found in the different app stores.

Besides that, as being one of the first institutions to open up on this scale, the Rijksmuseum is now being used as an example all over the world which has generated a lot of positive attention.