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The debate over how much work a museum should digitize, and at what quality, and for whom, is still being argued. But this week, the Getty Museum and Research Institute in L.A. came down hard on the free-and-good side, when it doubled its online art collection.

More than 10,000 works housed in the hilltop complex can now be downloaded in high resolution by any person with an internet connection. These include masterpieces like Vincent Van Gogh’s “Irises,” painted by the Dutch artist during his small window of good health at the Provençal asylum where he died.

Digitization involves “high-tech gadgets,” says Andrew Perchuk, deputy director of the Getty Research Institute. One such gadget is Treventus, a robot that uses compressed air and lasers to scan a book one page at a time. “It turns the pages,” Perchuk explains. “It’s not 100 percent automated — somebody still has to supervise it — but it can photograph very, very quickly.”

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!!!!7Masterpieces1Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises, 1889.
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