Press Release

Turner Bequest goes online

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.