Open Access in 60 seconds

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Open Access in the Arts

The arts disciplines have only recently begun to engage with the topic of open access. First initiatives, for example the network Open Access in den Künsten [Open Access in the Arts], have been launched in the German-speaking area. The arts are characterised both by disciplinary diversity (e.g. contemporary puppetry, film, media art, fashion design) and by diversity in terms of publishing formats. The latter comprise not only classical formats, such as essays and jour­nal articles, but also art books, exhibition catalogues, analogue and digital photos, posters, analogue and digital music and performance recordings, digital media art files/software, and 3D objects. 

An unequivocal answer to the question of where the dividing line between artis­tic and scholarly publications lies is not easy to give; nor does it appear to be meaningful in the interests of artistic freedom. Thus, open access in the arts cannot be a rigid construct where clear lines can be drawn. Both text-based and non-text-based publications are often multimedia in nature. They make complex technical and legal demands on the documentation, which are difficult to cover with the traditional library instruments. For the most part, the currently available infrastructures for open access publications are typically designed for text-based publications, and are not adequate to meet the needs in the arts. The infrastructures in the area of research data, which in part already exist or which are currently under construction, are important points of reference and can point the way for open access infrastructures in the arts. 

In addition, because of the close links with the creative industries, develop­ments in the arts impact a new area for the open access community – namely, the economic livelihood of artists. Artists work both for cultural and educational institutions and in the culture industry; they are dependent on marketing their content; and their publications are financed only partly via royalties. Moreover, they are often members of collecting societies, and are limited in their freedom to freely license their works. An open access strategy in the arts must therefore include the safeguarding of artists’ incomes. 

Open Access Journals 

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 512 entries under the keyword fine arts and 64 entries under music and books on music. The listed open access journals cater often for the arts-related scholarly disciplines but only rarely for the arts or artistic practice. In addition, journals are not the dominant form of publication in the arts disciplines. 

Open Access Books 

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 89 titles under the keyword fine arts, while the OAPEN Library listed around 122 titles under art. However, the search results are mainly publications from the areas of art/art history or even ethnology rather than from the visual or applied arts.

The primary form of publication in the arts are monographs and edited collec­tions. They are published in a diverse publisher landscape in which open access models are becoming increasingly  established. A great challenge is posed by the funding models, which are still very much under construction, and by the often enormous costs for the rights of use in visual materials in open access publications.

Disciplinary Repositories 

The most important disciplinary repositories in the arts include:

  • ART-Dok, the full-text server of the Specialised Information Service for Art, Photography and Design
  • musiconn, the portal of the Specialised Information Service for Musicology
  • media/rep/, an open access repository for media science publications

The above-mentioned repositories are geared towards text-based publications. 

The increasing importance of open access in the arts is also changing the discip­linary repositories: needs are being identified and new projects that deal with the building of repositories for non-text-based and multimedia media are arising. 

An overview of relevant repositories is provided by the Open Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).

Video about Self-Archiving Rights

Practical Tip

Finding Open Access Literature (in German)

Other Offerings

The network Open Access in den Künsten [Open Access in the Arts] offers all artistic institutions and higher education institutions a forum for exchange and discussion. The aim of the network is to share materials and information and to anchor the open access idea in the arts. The focus of the network is on libraries, which, as service facilities, promote and contribute to shaping the establishing of open access structures at various levels.

Open access is also gaining in importance in art and museum libraries (Hahn, 2018). Besides making text-oriented electronic resources available, these libra­ries have long been administering analogous special collections, such as image archives, graphical collections, or artist books. Here, open access can be a step towards digital transformation and the expansion of the collection profile and the information offering. Via synergy effects, this can also advance open access in the arts. For several years now, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Kunst- und Mu­seumsbibliotheken (Working Group of the Art and Museum Libraries, AKMB) has offered further training in the area of open access.

Open Science in the Arts

Open science is also a key topic in the arts. The process of creating art, and also the works themselves, often move between several components of open science. In view of the diversity of the content and formats in the arts, it is there­fore very expedient to focus not only on open access but also on open science as a whole, for example on open research data. 

Besides the open access infrastructures, the offerings of cultural institutions and research data infrastructures also offer points of reference. The expertise that exists in NFDI4Culture and other representatives of the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) is a valuable support for the arts in establishing publication infrastructures. 

NFDI4Culture is a consortium within the German National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) that represents the art history, musicology, theatre, dance, architecture, film, and media science communities. The aim of the consortium is to establish a range of offerings such as advisory and training services, guidelines, and forums for discipline-specific exchange. Moreover, NFDI4Culture engages with the legal complexities of dealing with cultural heritage, for example with questions of provenance or copyright.


Content editors of this page: Anika Wilde (Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch) and Friederike Kramer (Library of the Berlin University of the Arts, UdK) (Last updated: December 2021)