Open Access to Helsinki City Museum’s Photographs
Helsinki City Museum makes its photograph collection available online. The photographs are of such a high quality that they can be used even in top-end printed products. Helsinki City Museum is the first Finnish museum to make its entire digitized, high-resolution photograph collection available to everyone. Photographs can be browsed and downloaded at Helsinkiphotos.fi.
As Helsinkiphotos.fi launches, everyone can freely use Helsinki City Museum’s photographs of Helsinki throughout the times. The collection includes, for instance, all of Signe Brander’s much-loved photographs of Helsinki from a century ago as well as the extensive and significant Simo Rista and Eeva Rista collection depicting the changing city in the 1970s. The oldest of the collection’s photographs date back to the 1840s, allowing users to browse photographs about, for example, the history of trams ranging from the 19th to the 21st century. At launch, approximately 45,000 photographs are made available, with more images added as the digitization proceeds. Thus far, only a fraction of the photographs in the museum collection has been digitized.
The museum will make the photographs available in high-resolution suited for print-quality products, under a CC BY license. This means that users can download the images free of charge and use them freely not only online or in applications but also in books, gift items or wallpapers, provided that the photographer and Helsinki City Museum are credited. Anyone can decorate their home with a framed picture of their home street a century ago, include images of the changing city in a family history or have a nostalgic custom poster made. The high level of detail in the images allows for research and teaching use. Commercial use of the images is allowed within certain restrictions. For instance, it is prohibited to use portraits in marketing and advertising without the person’s consent.
Open data enables new uses and applications
Providing open access to collections has been a prominent trend in the museum world in recent years. Acclaimed international museums that have made their collections available online as web-quality or print-quality versions include, for instance, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In Finland, Helsinki City Museum is the first museum to make its entire digitized, high-resolution photograph collection available to everyone. For Helsinki City Museum, liberating the collection for public use is a logical continuation of the work done so far to lower thresholds to the museum and to increase the participation of Helsinki residents.
“These photographs have always been owned by the residents of Helsinki. Now that is true in practice, as well,” says Tiina Merisalo, Museum Director at Helsinki City Museum. “We want to guide the residents of the city to this magnificent photographic treasure and create opportunities for new ideas and innovative applications,” Merisalo goes on to say.
The new online service streamlines use of photographs
In the Helsinkiphotos.fi service, you can search for photographs with different search words, browse albums created by the museum or create albums of your own. At launch, the first version only supports Finnish-language searches, but the service is in continuous development. You can also order moderately priced, customized photographic products, such as posters and postcards based on any image within the collection.
Helsinki City Museum will make its entire, digitized photograph collection available to everyone. In the near future, the museum’s photographs will also be made available in high resolution in the national Finna service.