- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Smithsonian Institution’s Asian art museums have completed an effort to digitize their entire collections and plan to release the images online in 2015.

On Monday, the Freer Gallery of Art and Sackler Gallery will announce the museums will release their collections online Jan. 1. Most of the artworks have never been seen by the public. They are usually kept in archives.

Museum Director Julian Raby says opening the entire collections is part of the democratization of knowledge.

Most of the images of Asian art will be released in very high resolution without any copyright restrictions for noncommercial use. So the museums will encourage users to download free images for computer backgrounds, smartphones or social media.

Organizers say the digital collections could inspire new research or new works of art.

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