Statement on Open Scholarship

Digital publishing presents a new and exciting opportunity for the San José Museum of Art (SJMA) to further its mission of becoming a borderless museum. SJMA is an educational institution dedicated to engaging diverse communities in California’s Silicon Valley and around the world in the transformative power of art. Digital publishing is a catalyst for expanding the reach of the Museum’s educational resources. Older models of museum scholarship such as the printed monograph and collection highlights catalog were designed to be shelf-ready and self-contained objects, whereas new fluid models of multimedia content published on the worldwide web foster innovation in scholarly production and in interface design, allowing readers to interact with, use, and share content in unprecedented ways. SJMA is actively experimenting with the tools of digital publishing because of its capacity to engage and cultivate diverse knowledge communities near and far via the public internet.

The Association of Research Libraries—a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, of 125 research libraries at institutions in Canada and the United States—advances the term “open scholarship” to describe an emerging framework of scholarly research and publishing that encompasses open access, open data, open educational resources, and all other forms of openness in the scholarly and research environment that are changing the ways that knowledge is created and shared.

SJMA is exploring and building upon the framework of open scholarship in the digital publication of 50X50: Stories of Visionary Artists from the Collection, recognizing the potential of an inclusive non-commercial platform for cultivating diverse knowledge communities while also demonstrating an ongoing commitment to artists’ rights and especially the attribution of authorship for original creative works. The crux of SJMA’s approach to open scholarship is to make research widely accessible and usable without compromising the core ethical principles of the art world and established best practices for copyright law and fair use.

To this end, the production of 50X50 includes:

  • An archive of outreach letters addressed to community partners requesting permission to make multimedia materials (over two hundred items) available worldwide free of charge in a web-based format;

  • Linked citations that honor the origins of the publication’s fluid multimedia content as well as acknowledge the established relationships among artists with journalists, curators, historians, galleries, museums, and archives;

  • Curatorial selection of and scholarly commentary about the multimedia content that is contributing and “transformative” to the original material, adding “something new, with a further purpose or different character”—as the Supreme Court put it in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994) and as the College Art Association published in its Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts (February 2015)—by sequencing the materials into a relatable narrative about the life and work of featured artists in SJMA’s permanent collection with an emphasis on art’s contribution to civil society; and

  • Linked social-media platforms for sharing the publication’s multimedia content back out to the world, with the exception of materials whose circulation community partners have restricted.

In producing 50X50 as an experiment in digital publishing and open scholarship, SJMA joins other reputable and forward-thinking institutions with public service missions. We share a bold commitment to the open and broad dissemination of collections, resources, and scholarship to counter problems of social inequality caused by the restriction of access to knowledge production and exchange.