Kanagawa , 2000, William Pye, Selsey, West Sussex. Image taken  as part of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association  Sussex catalogue.© the artist. Photo  credit: Anthony  McIntosh (CC BY- NC - SA  2.0 UK)

Art UK to create online catalogue of UK's sculpture collection

Nicola Sullivan, 26.06.2017
£3.8m project will put around 170,000 sculptures online
Art UK has announced an extensive online catalogue of the UK’s publicly-owned sculpture collection.

The £3.8m project will digitise around 170,000 sculptures located in galleries, museums, public buildings, parks, streets and squares. The items will be displayed on Art UK’s website from 2018, and the organisation’s network of crowd-sourced experts will help to fill in missing information about the sculptures.

Items in the national sculpture collection come from almost every country and every era, offering insights into cultures as diverse as 12th-century Nigeria, Victorian Britain, the Tokugawa period in Japan, Renaissance Italy and 1960s America.  

The three-year project will focus on sculpture dating from the last 1,000 years and all objects, irrespective of condition or perceived quality, will be recorded, and most will be photographed, some in 3D.

Money will also be spent on training and learning programmes. For example, 125 sculptures will be taken to schools around the country for hands-on art history lessons. Contemporary sculptors and curators will help Art UK take selected pieces into shopping centres and public libraries and young people will have the opportunity to create films and sculptures. There will also be specially designed events and activities for blind and partially sighted people, a UK-wide training and volunteering programme designed to boost participants’ photography and digitisation skills.

Andrew Ellis, the director of Art UK, said: “This project has been four years in the planning. The result will be an astonishing digital showcase for the national collection of sculpture in all its rich and varied glory.”

Stuart Hobley, the head of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for London, said: “Wherever you are in the UK you can find public sculpture, quietly existing within our parks, museums and squares. Sculpture can be extraordinary, emotive, even challenging and yet, many of us are unaware that this sort of world class art work is on our doorstep and free to access.”

The project is funded by a £2.8m grant and the remaining £1m has come from a number of other donors including Arts Council England, the Scottish government, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Art UK will also delivered the project with seven partners: the BBC, Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Culture Street, Factum Foundation, Royal British Society of Sculptors, the Royal Photographic Society and VocalEyes.

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