Top 10 APIs for Museums

It seems that almost every discipline imaginable is undergoing a Digital Transformation these days. That includes the art, science, and culture world of museums.

More and more museums are opening access to digital files of the artifacts in their collections. Offering this kind of open data access encourages innovation for new visitor experiences, simplifies collaborations, offers machine-readability for digital art projects, provides an online outlet to showcase collections for remote enjoyment or student learning, provides better catalog record-keeping, and many other reasons.

Developers wishing to create or enhance applications with museum collection images, metadata, or other museum related data need the correct APIs to interact with.

What is a Museums API?

A Museums API is an Application Programming Interface that enables developers to programmatically access data, including media from museums, or about museums.

The best place to discover museum APIs is in the Museums category of the ProgrammableWeb API directory. In this article, we highlight 10 popular APIs from that category, based on website visits.

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art Met Collection API

New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art contains over 5000 years of art from around the world in its collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Met Collection APITrack this API is a Public API released in 2018 that provides select datasets of information on more than 400,000 artworks for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use. The API provides access to all of the Met's Open Access data and to corresponding high resolution images.

Public domain images of The Met collection are available under Creative Commons Zero

Public domain images of The Met collection are available under Creative Commons Zero. Screenshot: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

2. Artsy API is a marketplace learning about, and for buying, works of art. The Artsy APITrack this API provides access to images of historic artwork and related information on Artsy for educational and other non-commercial purposes. Public domain works are currently accessible.

3. Natural History Museum API

The Natural History Museum REST APITrack this API lets users access the data Portal of London's Natural History Museum to retrieve collection and research datasets for use in software or applications. The datasets, returned in JSON, hold 4/6 million specimen records from the Museum's Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Entomology collections.

4. Victoria & Albert Museum API

The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum APITrack this API offers a RESTful interface to the museum's collections and information regarding the collection. It returns all items in the database (paginated) in XML or JSON format. The purpose of the V&A API is to maximize access to all the collections and encourage use of them. The collections include applied and decorative arts, and the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture.

5. DigitalNZ API

The DigitalNZ APITrack this API enables users to find, share and use New Zealand's digital content lead by the National Library of New Zealand. With the API, developers can get access to a database of metadata that comes from various institutions around New Zealand including content from government departments, publicly funded organizations, the private sector, and community groups.

6. Smithsonian Institution Open Access API

The Smithsonian Institution Open Access APITrack this API provides access to metadata about objects in the vast Smithsonian museums and galleries collection. Get metadata for the objects (name, type, etc) also metrics about objects. Search by category or terms. Smithsonian Open Access enables users to share and reuse millions of the Smithsonian's images. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian's 19 museums, 9 research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

Smithsonian Open Access: 2.8 Million Images Are Yours to Use Video: YouTube/Smithsonian

7. Brooklyn Museum API

The Brooklyn Museum is an art museum located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn with an art collection that encompasses 1.5 million works. The Brooklyn Museum Collection APITrack this API is a set of services that developers can access to display Brooklyn Museum collection images and data in your their applications. Collections range from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art, and with a wide range of cultures represented.

8. DigitaltMuseum API

DigitaltMuseum provides access to more than 5 million objects from over 250 museums and collections in Norway and Sweden. The DigitaltMuseum APITrack this API offers data search to the Digital Museum, with display of images and access to XML for objects. Search for artifacts by object type (architecture, fine art, photograph, person, etc.) or name, title, classification, material, producer, technique, event and more. The collections can be used for studies, teaching, articles, genealogy and more.

9. Harvard Art Museums API

The Harvard Art Museums APITrack this API integrates museum's collections into an application. Users gain access to data about Objects, People, Exhibitions, Publications, and Galleries. It is available in REST-style architecture with JSON data. Harvard Art Museums are encompassed by three museums in Cambridge, MA that include European & American art from the Middle Ages to present time.

10. Art Beat API

The Art Beat network provides calendars and reviews for Art events in New York and Tokyo. Art Beat provides the New York Art Beat APITrack this API and the Tokyo Art Beat APITrack this API, which provide news on art and design events, exhibition listings, show reviews, and photo reports for their prospective cities. These XML APIs let developers access NY and Tokyo art and design event names, descriptions and prices, and is useful for artist, audience, gallery and art museum applications.

See the Museums category for more APIs, and also SDKs, Source Code Samples, and other developer resources.

Be sure to read the next Museums article: The Art Institute of Chicago Adds Public API Access to Exhaustive Collection of Museum Data