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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Your Paintings - A nation's oil paintings goes online, tagged by the public


The presentation of this paper would be given by the two lead partners in the Your Paintings project: the BBC and the PCF. It would describe:

(i)    The nine-year project to create a comprehensive photographic record of all oil paintings in public ownership across the United Kingdom that will reach its conclusion at the end of 2012. By that date the project will have catalogued approximately 200,000 paintings from around 3,000 collections including not only those in museums but also works in universities, hospitals, fire stations and other public buildings. The largest of these collections is the National Trust with over 12,000 oil paintings. At the other end of the scale are many collections that hold just one painting. In between lie famous collections such as Tate and the National Gallery and a massive core of unsung local authority museums.

(ii)  The project to build and then run the Your Paintings website including reference to the audience research that preceded the build, the engagement of stakeholders, the programmes to reach wider audiences, how we are connecting broadcast BBC arts programmes to the Your Paintings website and the measures of success that are being used to track project progress.

(iii)The Your Paintings Tagger crowdsourcing project at

which is creating enhanced meta data for the Your Paintings website using a methodology used in the classification of galaxies by the Citizen Science Alliance (the Galaxy Zoo project). This interface was built for the PCF by its supplier Keepthinking with Art Historical input provided to the project by the University of Glasgow. This meta data will allow users of the Your Paintings website to search for specific subject matter and styles and movements in paintings.

(iv)  The plans to make Your Paintings data and images available to collections (and possibly others), through an API and other data sharing web services, thereby unlocking new value. The challenges addressed will include rights issues and technical barriers.

(v)    The plans to create an online network of pro bono oil paintings expertise for participating collections to refer to in partnership with leading UK collections and the University of Glasgow. This network would play a role in substantiating useful suggestions about missing painting information that are being made by the public through the Art Detective feature on the Your Paintings website.


Andrew Ellis (PCF) and Dan Gluckman (BBC)





Demonstration - show your project


Andrew Ellis's picture
Andrew Ellis has been Director of the PCF since its launch in 2003. Over this period he has overseen the project to digitise the UK’s collection of oil paintings. In recent years he has led the transformation of the PCF from being a publisher of hardcopy catalogues to publishing its work online. In...
Dan Gluckman's picture
Project Lead on Your Paintings Project