Yale University has one of the larger collections of art, objects and documents of any organization in the U.S. Now, digital images and audio files of the collection are free to access by anyone in the world online, according to an announcement by the university's communications office.

Yale Digital Commons has debuted with just under 260,000 images. The idea is to encompass the whole of the university's collections in time.

According to the site, there are over 1.2 million items currently "not available online." Among the institutions the project draws from are the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art and the University Library, not to mention the Yale University on iTunes.

If there's any doubt it's an eclectic collection, here are some examples Yale gives.

"(A) small limestone stela with hieroglyphic inscription from the Peabody Museum of Natural History, a Mozart sonata in the composer's own hand from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, a 15th-century Javanese gold kris handle from the Indo-Pacific collection of Yale University Art Gallery and a watercolor by William Blake from the collection of prints and drawings in the Yale Center for British Art."

The most unique element of the offering is the lack of any licensing. From Yale:

"In a departure from established convention, no license will be required for the transmission of the images and no limitations will be imposed on their use. The result is that scholars, artists, students, and citizens the world over will be able to use these collections for study, publication, teaching and inspiration."

Presumably, that means that if someone wanted to make a t-shirt or a liquor ad from one of the images, that would be OK. How this will work with, say Tony Blair's lecture on "Infusing values into the global system" is uncertain. A small number of files are listed as allowing "restricted access" but none seem to be in the iTunes section.

Other sources: ResourceBlog