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Open Access just made me love Smithsonian more

You all know how much I love the Smithsonian. Between their 19 brick and mortar museums, the amazing Learning Lab, the History Explorer, and their handy digital resources, it can be difficult deciding where to start.

And the decision just got a bit more difficult. The Smith just released a new site called Open Access  focused sharing almost three million still images, text, sound recordings, research datasets, 3D models, and collection data. It gives you free and easy access to 2D and 3D images from all 19 Smithsonian museums, its nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo, all in the public domain. Use however you want for whatever you want as mush as you want.

All perfect for teacher lesson plan creation and student research.

I especially love the 3D objects and images of artifacts. With Smithsonian Open Access, they’re  increasing our ability to use millions of digital assets all carrying what’s called a CC0 designation. This means the Smithsonian dedicates the digital asset into the public domain, meaning the collection is free of copyright restrictions and you can use it for any purpose, free of charge, without further permission from the Smithsonian. How cool is that?

Th Smithsonian says this is only the beginning. As the institution continues to digitize more of its massive collection, approximately 200,000 more images will be added to the Open Access platform this year.

To find stuff, simply use the search box midway down the front page. You’ll get a ton of results broken into a variety of categories. You can browse through all of it or break down by the six different groupings.

There is some additional work to do. There can be so many results that it’s difficult at times to narrow down the search. Assuming their search algorithms will continue to improve over time. It’s also a bit clunky to search and get back to the main Open Access page, though using the back button works. (I love you Smithsonian but would it kill you to put a Home button somewhere on search results?)

I also noticed some glitchy sharing icons when viewing images and artifacts on a Chrome browser – though they seemed to work fine on other browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Edge.

But i will forgive these minor flaws cause . . . well, three million artifacts, images, and 3D objects. So watch the handy promo video below and then head over to start search and exploring.

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Amanda Jessee #

    Way cool! My 5th graders did a FREE digital field trip with the Smithsonian American Art Museum! The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration ( have a heck ton of free (and paid, but try the free ones first) digital opportunities. Besides the SAAM, we have visited with archaeologists from the National Park Service, a speaker at the GW Bush Presidential Library, and a mummy expert from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Later this year, my 5th graders have one with an archivist from NARA to talk about the Constitution!!! (sorry for the tangent!)

    February 28, 2020
    • glennw #

      Tangents are the best things so thanks for sharing! Would love to be a 5th grader in your room – sounds like some awesome stuff going on. (Heading off to check out the CILC – that’s a new for me!)


      March 2, 2020

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