The BBC in partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) announced the launch of Your Paintings
, a project to create a complete catalogue of every oil painting in the national collection, on a dedicated website.
In all, the national collection amounts to some 200,000 works, held in 3,000 galleries, museums, libraries and public institutions all over the country, making it probably one of the largest and most diverse collections of paintings in the world.
The first phase of Your Paintings went live yesterday, with over 60,000 paintings by 15,000 artists from 860 collections. The site will feature online selections made by well known artists, historians and celebrities including Yinka Shonibare, Rory Bremner, Frank Skinner, Dan Snow, Tracey Cox, Matt Baker, Gus Casely Hayford, Mary Beard, Alastair Sooke, Monty Don and The Reduced Shakesspeare Company encouraging the public to take part in the development of this monumental project, tagging works, and helping to classify paintings as they are uploaded to the site over the next eighteen months towards completion by the end of 2012.
With the help of crowd-sourcing technology pioneered by the Astrophysics Department at Oxford University to classify galaxies, the public will join the experts in deciding how the works will be catalogued as they tag and classify each painting. The artist Alison Watt explains how to tag in a short film on the site. This tagging will allow future users to do their own searches - these could range from a simple object search, such as for rivers, racing cars, costume or cats to deeper research to look for places, people, styles and movements.
The paintings are drawn from public collections in every part of the country, big and small, from the most famous to the completely unknown. They include the UK's national museums and galleries, regional collections, the National Trust, as well as the less obvious public collection like those in universities, council buildings, hospitals and fire stations.
New works and more functionality will be added to the site as the project evolves. As the project develops the site will present a body of knowledge and learning resources that will give everyone the opportunity to discover the richness and diversity of the great works of art in public ownership.
The painstaking research to locate the paintings up and down the country has been carried out by the Public Catalogue Foundation, launched in 2003 as a registered charity to do this work. The PCF's team of 50 regional co-ordinators and 30 photographers have travelled all over the country to find and catalogue each of the paintings, the majority of which are either rarely or never normally seen.
In addition to opening up the BBC Online platform to enable Your Paintings to happen, the BBC will enrich the online offer through related programmes airing this summer across BBC TV channels. For one month from 24 June to 24 July, selected highlights of the Your Paintings collection will be viewable in 20 cities across the UK on the BBC Big
Andrew Ellis, Director of the Public Catalogue Foundation, says: "Today marks the start of an exciting journey. No country has ever embarked on such a monumental project to showcase its entire painting collection online. Working with collections and individuals all over the UK, this project is only possible thanks to the advent of digital technologies and the unique resource of the BBC."