Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage

November 2021 – November 2024

This project combines critical art-historical and museological research with interactive machine learning to surface patterns of bias within collection information and uncover hidden connections between artists, artworks and histories across collections, generating new narratives around art, nation and heritage.

Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage is an interdisciplinary collaborative research project led by the University of the Arts London (UAL) with Tate. It brings together Tate’s Research, Learning and Digital departments with researchers from UAL’s Decolonising Arts Institute and Creative Computing Institute to engage with the contentious histories imbued within collections, and reveal the sometimes uncomfortable stories behind individual artworks.

Transforming Collections will deliver a public programme of activity in autumn 2024, showcasing research outputs and artist commissions, along with a series of case studies presented at workshops, conferences and published in open-access peer-reviewed publications and online.

Donald Rodney

How the West was Won 1982

© The estate of Donald Rodney

Tate has contributed to various strands of enquiry, in line with the project’s interdisciplinary research approach. Tate Research colleagues have undertaken art-historical and museological research that has informed the development of machine learning prototypes. This has involved consolidating existing artwork interpretation and auditing these for biases, which has so far identified texts on artworks from all periods of history and a range of practices. Tate has also supported historiographic research on the acquisition and display of specific artworks.

The Tate Digital team has undertaken research into its own workflows with a focus on the subject index tagging process to examine the relationship between institutional practice and technical systems. Subject indexing is the process of identifying and describing items held in Tate’s collection, which allows visitors to Tate’s website to use keywords to search 150,000 digitised items (as of 2022). Inconsistencies occur as a result of differing approaches, resources and revisions to the terms applied, posing the risk of replicating harms and biases. Tate Digital are engaging with the project research to inform changes to institutional practices and systems.

Vong Phaophanit

Neon Rice Field 1993

© Vong Phaophanit

Tate Learning is collaborating on the development of a public programme to be realised in October 2024. This week-long programme across both Tate Modern and Tate Britain will showcase and reflect upon the project’s findings through an academic conference, artist in residence displays, machine learning workshops, and a large-scale evening event.

Transforming Collections is led by the Decolonising Arts Institute, University of the Arts London (Principal Investigator Professor susan pui san lok). Tate is a Co-Investigator on the project.

For full details on the project, the project team and research outputs please visit the UAL website at

Project Partners and collaborating organisations


Transforming Collections is one of five national Discovery Projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of Towards a National Collection (TaNC): a five-year research and development programme harnessing the potential of new technology to dissolve barriers between collections.

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Project Information

Project type
Research project
Lead departments
Tate Research
Tate Learning
Project team
Christopher Griffin, Research
Mark Miller, Learning
Jon Haworth, Digital (from March 2024)
Liam Darbon, Digital (April 2023 – March 2024)
Dr Hannah Barton, Digital (April 2022 – April 2023)
Hilary Knight, Digital (November 2021 – April 2022)