Wellcome Collection Puts 100,000 Images Up For Free on Their Website

The Wellcome Collection — a London institution that “explores the connections between medicine, life and art” — are the latest to release 100,000 digitised images for open access under Creative Commons licensing.The pictures, accessible through the Wellcome Images website, are free to download and manipulate provided that a source citation is included. The images are of a variety of subjects, but predominantly relate to the history of science and medicine. These include oil paintings, manuscript illuminations, sketches and photographs.

This announcement closely follows the release of 1m free, open-access images by the British Library onto their Flickr account. The British Library is also undertaking the major digitisation of their entire manuscript collection under the Integrated Archives and Manuscripts System (IAMS) project – with the exception of those too fragile to undergo the digitising process.

This move by the Wellcome to provide open access to their images raises a lot of questions about the ethical implications of claiming ownership of digitised artworks, and charging often-high fees for the licensing of individual pictures.

Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library, said: “as a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

Catherine Draycott, head of Wellcome Images, added: “we are delighted to make our growing archive of historical images freely available to all, and provide the mechanism for direct access to them.”

— Ashitha Nagesh (@ashnagesh)

(Photo: Milton visiting Galileo when a prisoner of the Inquisition. Oil painting by Solomon Alexander Hart, 1847, Wellcome Collection via Wellcome Images)