Home > Collections Online > FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions


Background Information


  • How much staff time did it take to develop Open F|S?
    • Open F|S is the result of a massive staff effort to photograph and create digital records for all Freer|Sackler objects, requiring at least 6,000 staff hours in 2014 alone and resulting in more than 10 terabytes of data. The process began in 1998, when John Tsantes, former head of imaging and photographic services at the Freer|Sackler, created the first fully digital photography studio at the Smithsonian.
  • What other digital projects has the Freer|Sackler undertaken?
    • While Open F|S is the Galleries’ largest digital initiative to date, it joins other recent projects designed to increase global accessibility. We participated in the launch of both the Google Art Project and the Google Cultural Institute’s online exhibition tool. We have converted almost 400 full-length performances at the Freer by world-renowned musicians into digital format for streaming and download. The Freer|Sackler also boasts several 3D models on the Smithsonian X 3D website.
  • Will people still visit the museums if they can see everything online?
    • Yes! We hear consistently that nothing replaces the awe-inspiring feeling of standing in front of a cultural treasure. In fact, the ability to discover and learn about favorite works online makes viewers more inclined to come see them in person. There’s a wide audience that may never get the chance to visit Washington, DC, or see an exhibition featuring the museums’ objects, and we want to make sure our collections reach as many people as possible.
  • What’s the next stage of functionality for Open F|S?
    • We hope to create new features—such as 360-degree images and 3D models of every three-dimensional artwork—over the next few years. We’d love your help and your feedback! Complete the form on our Get Involved page to become a beta tester for the Freer|Sackler and our newly digitized collection. To show our appreciation for your partnership, observations, and suggestions, we will send you exclusive hackathon invitations, closed test versions of future Open F|S iterations, and other forms of gratitude.

Using the Images


  • What does “non-commercial” mean?
    • Non-commercial use encompasses a wide range of exciting possibilities—including artistic, educational, scholarly, and personal projects that will not be marketed, promoted, or sold. Examples include, but are not limited to, presentations, research, tattoos, sixth-grade science fair projects, tablet backgrounds, free and ad-free apps, GIFs, holiday centerpieces, Halloween costumes, decoupage, inspiration boards, and shower curtains. Read the Smithsonian’s directive on Digital Asset Access and Use for more details.
  • What if I need an image for commercial publication or use?
  • How should I cite and credit an image that I have downloaded from the Freer|Sackler's website?
    • Please credit all images with “Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.”
  • Can I crop, manipulate, or modify the images?
    • Yes! Art isn’t static, nor has it ever been. People with an urge to create always have been inspired by those who came before and the images around them. In fact, in our collections, you can see evidence of artists learning from each other, borrowing themes or techniques, and developing new concepts. We want that to continue!
  • Are all images suitable for publication?
    • That depends on what you’re publishing. Almost all of our images are available in high enough resolution to publish in something like a magazine or book. More than 90 percent are available in high enough resolution for larger print jobs, such as banners or outdoor signs. Just make sure you read about the differences between commercial and non-commercial use before you get started.
  • What if my publisher requires a license or written confirmation that I may use a Freer|Sackler image in my scholarly publication?
  • Do I need to send a gratis copy of publications in which I have used a Freer|Sackler image?
    • If you intend to publish an image from the collection that needs approval from our Rights and Reproductions department, a formal permission agreement will be sent to you that includes a clause about gratis material.
  • Why are some of the contemporary works not available in high-resolution?
    • The Freer|Sackler does not hold the permissions necessary to release a small number of contemporary artworks, such as works by living artists. For those, we have provided thumbnail images.
  • May I really use these images to make a shower curtain?



The Freer is closed for renovation and reopening in 2017. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC.