Digital reviews

The latest websites and apps from museums and galleries
Profile image for Rachel Ellis
Rachel Ellis
I try to get to the big shows at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), but sadly missed the Charles I: King and Collector exhibition in 2018. 
I love the idea of lost art being found and reunited with other pieces from the same collection. This is the story of Charles I’s magnificent art collection. It was disposed of by Oliver Cromwell, after he condemned its owner to death, and more than 350 years later, 100 works from it were brought together at the RA.
Having missed the exhibition, it was great to stumble on the Royal Collection’s online project, The Lost Collection. Its creators tell me that it is a work in progress – there are still things they want to tinker with – but that does not detract from the site.
The Lost Collection’s goals are to publish Charles I’s collection in its entirety and to visually recreate three of his privy lodging rooms, hanging artworks in a virtual space to give a sense of how they could have been arranged at Whitehall Palace.
I found the room visualisations especially compelling and spent more time here than I would ordinarily give to exploring an online collection. This type of recreation appeals to the museum visitor in me – I felt like I was in the room, able to wander, looking at the things that appealed to me and choosing to dig deeper into collections information when my interest was piqued.
This is a scholarly project that feels accessible. Details about the initiative and the art historians’ processes are written succinctly and clearly. I am left in awe of the painstaking work they have done, not only in the gathering of the data but also in the way they have communicated it. 
This free app for Android and iOS users is a joy to behold. Made through a collaboration between The Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands, and the insurance group Nationale-Nederlanden, it is part of a programme of work to mark 350 years since Rembrandt’s death. 
It tells the story behind the artist’s group portrait The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, which was painted in 1632 and will appear in the Mauritshuis’s display of its entire Rembrandt collection in September. 
If you’re not planning a trip to The Hague, this app will bring a little bit of Rembrandt into your home. You need a big space to wander around with it – I started in my small kitchen but had to keep walking and ended up in my utility room. Wear headphones to hear the audio and become immersed in the history of this wonderful painting. 

I grew up in a former mining community in the north-east of England. I still remember my first encounter with huge artworks by a local painter called Norman Cornish. They were hung in the cottage of a friend of my parents and depicted a world of men and pubs. This world was as unfamiliar to the eight-year-old me as Cornish’s other common theme – the mines and the men who toiled in them – but they have stayed in my memory ever since.
So I was delighted to be able to explore the work of this now famous “pitman painter” via a new trail created to mark the centenary of Cornish’s birth. We strolled around the small town of my youth (Spennymoor in County Durham), guided by this easy-to-use web-based app, finding places Cornish immortalised in his work. Each place was marked by a physical display board, too, which contained images of Cornish’s work and text about them.
Some places Cornish painted are still recognisable, but others have changed and all that is left of that moment in history are his depictions. Using the app, we listened to oral reminiscences about each of the 10 places that make up the trail. These were a joy and made the experience wonderfully immersive. 
My favourite part of this hour-long wander was when a passing child shouted over to us that he had done the trail, too, with his school. He seemed delighted to see others doing the same. The trail aims to help locals develop a sense of identity with their heritage, and that passing child and I can vouch for its success in that. 
It also seems to be attracting new visitors to the town: the exhibition of Cornish’s work (until 31 Dec) at Spennymoor Town Hall was packed with people who had travelled from further afield. 

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Join the Museums Association today to read this article

Over 12,000 museum professionals have become members — why don’t you? Join to gain access to exclusive articles, free entry to museums and access to our members events.