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Open Content Program

The Birmingham Museum of art makes available digital images of works in the Museum’s collection believed to be in the public domain. Images are available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Museum for authorization to use these images. They are available through the Online Collection at See detailed instructions for specific work types below.

Identifying Open Content Images

The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to spark the creativity, imagination, and liveliness of Birmingham by connecting all its citizens to the experience, meaning, and joy of art. The Museum understands that by sharing images of works online without restrictions, the BMA collection becomes more accessible to a larger audience.

For objects with images the rights status is displayed in the “credit line” section of the object information. The rights status or rights holder will be indicated. If the work is in the public domain and/or the image may be downloaded, the download icon will appear in the bottom right corner of the image area. To search the collection click here.

Works With Restrictions

For copyright-protected images that have been approved by copyright holders, a presentation-sized image is available, but can not be downloaded. A copyright statement clearly listing the name of the copyright holder is visible in the credit line area when the image is displayed. Thumbnail-sized images of copyrighted works are displayed under fair use.

When the owner of a work is impossible to determine or contact, the work is deemed an orphan work. The Museum will make thumbnails of orphan works available. If you are the representative or rights holder of an orphan work, please contact Rights and Reproductions.


Please use the following source credit when reproducing an Open Content image: Courtesy Birmingham Museum of Art, followed by the credit line provided in the object description.

Although there are no restrictions or conditions of the use of an Open Content image, the BMA would appreciate a gratis copy of any scholarly publication(s) in which the images are reproduced in order to maintain collection bibliography. Copies may be sent to the attention of:

Open Content Program
Digital Media Department
The Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd
Birmingham, AL 35203


  • If an image is not available under Open Content it may be because the work is still under copyright, the work is not owned by the museum, or the work has not yet been photographed to BMA standards.
  • Request Images: If an image of a work is not available online or is under copyright, you may submit a request through our online request form. You may also request files in additional sizes or formats. A fee will be charged for this service.
  • Our determination of public domain is made in good faith.
  • Electronic records are based on historical information and may not be the Museum’s complete or current knowledge about an object. Research is ongoing.
  • The ‘On View’ status may be delayed on the website by 24 hours. Please check with our Rights and Registration Office to confirm that a work of art will be on view before traveling to the Museum.
  • For additional details and additional terms of use, please see the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Terms of Use Page

Mount Vesuvius at Midnight

J. Jehenne , lithographer, Etienne Isidore Hangard-Maugé , printer, After the original painting by Albert Bierstadt


In late 1867, Albert Bierstadt was in London when he learned of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and immediately set out for Italy to paint the volcano in action. Bierstadt saw Vesuvius erupt in January of 1868, and the resulting painting—Mount Vesuvius at Midnight—was exhibited in London by June, and in Boston and New York later that year. A critic for the New York Herald described the scene writing, “It represents Vesuvius in one of the grandest phases of her late volcanic fury, and so real, vivid and startling are the colors that it is difficult to believe it a mere illusion. The scene is at night, and the fiery, dazzling glare of the eruption, which crimsons both earth and sky, is blended and softened by silvery moonlight.” 

Unfortunately, Mount Vesuvius at Midnight is now lost, although a smaller version survives in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1869, Bierstadt copyrighted a chromolithograph after his painting, which was subsequently produced in France. Chromolithography—a method of color printmaking—provided artists with a means of accurately and inexpensively reproducing oil paintings and making their work available to a wider audience. Until recently, there was only one known example of the chromolithograph of Bierstadt’s Mount Vesuvius:  in the collection of the National Library of France. With the discovery of this second example, the Birmingham Museum of Art now has the only known example in the United States, and one of two in the world.