Insight: The digitisation of the Tate collection The digitisation of the Tate collection

 The pioneering Insight project was designed to open new paths into the Tate collection through a comprehensive database of indexed images accessible through the Tate website. The ultimate aim is to develop a digital information resource that encompasses the entire collection and enables appropriate on-site and remote access to art for the widest possible audience.

Development of the Insight project

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 (BAIP), part of the Tate Britain Centenary Development supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project was further extended through the NOF-digitise programme, supported by the Big Lottery Fund.

Aim of the Insight project

The aim was to deliver high-quality indexed images for all works in the 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 massive Turner Bequest as well as partnerships with a range of other collections through our Turner Worldwide initiative to digitise and display 2,000 works by J.M.W. Turner not held at Tate. Insight also helped 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.

Over 65,000 artworks accessible online

Over 65,000 works in the Tate collection – the national collection of British painting and twentieth-century painting and sculpture – have already been captured. These fall into the following main categories:

  • Paintings: over 4,600 works from the sixteenth century to the present day
  • Sculptures: over 1,500 works dating from the late nineteenth century to the present day
  • Works on paper: over 54,000 works of all periods, including the nation’s foremost study collection of modern British prints, the magnificent Oppé collection of historic English watercolours and twentieth-century works, and the Turner Bequest. Prints and Drawings Rooms holdings

Insight has been an important element in Tate’s attempt to create wider accessibility to its holdings. Even a collection as well known as Tate’s has many works that few people outside scholarly circles have seen. There are also many works that are too fragile for display, so by digitising the collection Tate is making it more accessible than ever before, while continuing to conserve the works themselves.

Ongoing digitisation

Our ultimate aim is to complete the digitsation of the entire collection. This is an ongoing task; Tate is currently acquiring some 1,200 new artworks each year. At the same time we also want to move beyond static 2D representation to experiment with new ways of presenting some of our more challenging works. Supported by the New Opportunities Fund, Tate initially launched a range of special imaging treatments on the website, and we are constantly adding both audio and video content to enhance understanding of, and engagement with, the collection and Tate exhibitions.

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