Yale University has opened up its museum archives to the public in digital form, providing free online access to high-resolution images from its cultural collections, making it the first Ivy League school to do so in this fashion. Currently, there's over 250,000 "open access" images available from their new online collective catalog, with the goal of providing scholars, artists, students and all other worldly citizens royalty-free, no-license access to images of public domain collections without limitations on their use.
Some of the digitized items include Vincent van Gogh's painting Le café de nuit (which sparked an ownership lawsuit against Yale) and a 15th-century Javanese gold kris handle from the Yale University Art Gallery. Also, a Mozart sonata written by the composer's own hand from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, small limestone stela with hieroglyphic inscription from the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and watercolor by William Blake from the Yale Center for British Art.
"The open access policy allows us to more fully harness the potential of digital and networked technologies in service to scholarship as well as to creative use and reuse of our rich cultural heritage. It frees us to concentrate on our core mission to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in digital form," said Meg Bellinger, director of the Yale Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure (ODAI), which developed and will support the implementation of the initiative.
But from glancing at the online site, one does not actually see any "high quality" images, only low-res ones, which is quite odd. And the eCatalogue's terms (see Section 1, Copyright) still state that the images are not free to use, leaving their definition of "open access" somewhat ambiguous. And it's stated elsewhere that its new "open access" policy might be because of the cost and resources needed to enforce licensing restrictions.
Hopefully, these images will indeed be free to the public and that they will start uploading higher quality images, one day archiving all of their public domain content online.
Check out the official "open access" slideshow from Yale for some of their more famous works available on the web.