Tate, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and BT, is delighted to announce that it has created online access to the entire Turner Bequest. The Bequest, which was given to the nation in 1856 and numbers nearly 300 paintings and over 30,000 watercolours and drawings by JMW Turner, goes online on 1 March 2002.
Access to many of these works has been restricted until now to special exhibitions or arranged appointments with the Prints and Drawings Room at Tate Britain. Now, fulfilling Tate’s longstanding aim of increased public access to its outstanding resources, this extraordinary collection will be fully accessible and viewable online, enabled by BT, exclusive sponsor of the Tate website. This will allow users around the world to gain an appreciation of the full range of Turner’s work and practice.
This project is part of Insight, an initiative supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which aims to greatly improve online access to the Tate Collection for the widest possible audience. As well as digitising the 30,000 pictures in the Turner Bequest, Insight has added a number of other key tools for the research and enjoyment of Turner’s work. Online visitors can browse through 300 of Turner’s sketchbooks, using an Enhanced Image viewing mechanism to see less distinct pencil markings, thanks to help from the University of Northumbria. A Geographic Search of the United Kingdom by county and of Europe by country, traces works by Turner from his many travels.
For users wanting an introduction to this vast collection, the Turner Highlights provides special selections which currently include Sunsets, Watercolours for Engravings and Related Works. This complements the extensive subject search facility for the Online Collection provided by Insight last year which enables searches through thousands of links and cross-references. Searches as broad as Literature, History or Architecture, or as detailed as Pre-Raphaelite Women are proving extremely popular. Similarly, the new Special Collections brings together groups of works such as the Oppé, Chantrey, De Botton, and Ted Powers Collections. All of these features have been made possible as a result of BTopenworld technology which powers the site.
The launch of the Turner Bequest will mean that over 50,000 works from the Tate Collection have been imaged and indexed by the Insight team, including 3,500 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 8,000 prints and 6,000 unique works on paper. Other key developments go online on 1 March, including My Selection, the opportunity for online visitors to save their favourite works in their own online catalogue which they can return to time and time again. A lightbox facility within My Selection allows the images to be laid out next to each other to compare and contrast. Tate has recently secured New Opportunities Fund support to ensure that Insight will extend over the next two years.
Notes to Editor
In parallel with its recent physical expansion and as part of its digital activities, Tate has embarked on a long-term programme to provide greater access to the Collection beyond the gallery walls. Insight aims to deliver high quality indexed images for all works in the Tate Collection, comprising some 60,000 items ranging from iconic paintings and sculptures to relatively obscure pencil drawings and sketchbooks. This includes around 30,000 works in the vast Turner Bequest as well as partnerships with a range of other collections in order to digitise and display 2,000 works by Turner not held at Tate. Work is also underway to promote access to the Tate Archive through an online illustrated catalogue, together with a range of engaging themes drawn from the rich archival resource.
Insight began with the launch of the Tate website in 1998, which contained a partially illustrated concise catalogue of the Collection. It was then taken forward through the British Art Information Project, part of the Tate Britain Centenary development supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The initiative is currently being extended through the NOF digitise programme supported by the New Opportunities Fund. Insight is facilitated by an Image Management System supplied by iBase Image Systems Ltd.
Sandy Nairne, Director of Programmes at Tate, commented: 'This is a great day for Turner. Now that Tate's Insight project has brought the Turner Bequest online, millions of people, worldwide, will be able to share in the enjoyment of these great works which the artist gave to the nation'.
Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: 'This project means that one of the world's most important art collections will be available to more people than ever before through state of the art technology. Our support for this fantastic new resource reflects our commitment to making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy and learn about all aspects of Britain's cultural and artistic heritage'.
BT Sponsorship of Tate Online
The project has been supported by the continuing sponsorship of the Tate website, Tate Online, by BT, Tate Online is one of the largest and most popular websites in the world - powered by BTopenworld and part of BT's initiative to make art accessible to everyone. The website currently registers over 1.5 million unique visitors annually. For those who have not yet been able to visit the Tate galleries, this online collaboration is a way of literally bringing art into their living room.
BT's Head of Commercial Sponsorship, Paul Leonard, said: 'This is another significant step in achieving BT's aim of bringing art to everyone. This unique insight into Turner and his works will prove an excellent resource for online users.'
BT is dedicated to encouraging and sustaining a communicating society and supports the arts through its Social Policy Programme. The work with Tate, across the collection displays and Tate Online, creates a wider showcase of today's art and allows exploration into the art of tomorrow through technology and communication.