The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), a
co-initiator of the Open Access movement, has drawn up a set of
best-practice recommendations concerning the scholarly use of visual
The recommendations aimed at facilitating the scholarly use and
publication of historical digital images were drafted following
consultations with scholars and representatives of leading museums,
libraries, image archives and publishers.
The aim of the document is to create a network of mutual trust and
cooperation between scholars and curators of cultural heritage
collections with a view to facilitating access to and the scholarly use
of visual media.
The recommendations can be downloaded from the MIPWG website which
currently features a detailed report on the initiative.
The recommendations were prompted by the barriers encountered by those
who wish to use and publish images of cultural heritage objects. High
licence fees and complicated access regulations make it increasingly
difficult for scholars in the humanities to work with digital images. It
is true that the digitization of image collections has acted as a
catalyst for scholarly research. However, archives, collections and
libraries differ greatly with respect to the question of how, where and
on what basis images may be used for scholarly purposes. Moreover, their
policies in this regard are becoming increasingly restrictive,
especially when it comes to new forms of e-publishing.
The MPIWG drew up its recommendations for facilitating the scholarly use
of digital images following consultations with international experts
which took place in January 2008. The recommendations call on curators
and scholars to develop a mutually binding network of trust. The aim of
the initiative is to encourage stakeholders jointly to address the
current and future challenges raised by the digital age. The document
urges curators to refrain from restricting the public domain arbitrarily
and calls on them to accommodate the needs of scholars for
reasonably-priced or freely-accessible high-resolution digital images –
both for print publications and new Web-based forms of scholarly
publishing. It exhorts scholars to recognise museums, libraries and
collections as owners and custodians of physical objects of cultural
heritage and to acknowledge their efforts in making digital images
available. Moreover, it urges them to take their role as guarantors of
authenticity and accurate attribution extremely seriously.