In the past, we explored using free online patent records as an effective and economical way to learn more about antiques and vintage objects. As museums continue the daunting task of digitizing their collections and making them freely available online, I think it is time for a follow up!
The following museums offer several of my favorite online research tools; their impressive online databases are free to consult and expanding every day. These world-class institutions maintain staggering collections of fine and decorative arts and each have gone to great lengths and expense to make their collection records freely available to the public. Follow the links below to learn more about your objects and areas of collecting interest:
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library has over 90,000 object records online.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has over one million objects from the collection of online.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has just listed over 200,000 objects online. In addition to more traditional queries, they offer the opportunity to search for the tallest, shortest, widest and narrowest objects!
A good collector is an informed collector!
UPDATE: The Metropolitan Museum of Art just released 375,000 digitized images into the public domain!