Art UK has launched a three-year project to catalogue the country’s national sculpture collection. Supported by a £2.8 million National Lottery grant, by 2020 around 170,000 sculptures across England, Scotland and Wales will have been photographed and displayed on the website.

The charity, which works with the UK’s public art collections to showcase their artworks, has been recording and digitising public art collections in the UK since 2002. The works in this new project, the first of which are due to be published online in January 2018, will join an existing 22,000 artworks already digitally catalogued.

A comprehensive digitisation process, due to start this autumn, will focus on the last thousand years of the UK’s collection of public sculpture. The cataloguing will include works not fully recorded and other pieces that remain in storage. It will also highlight public monuments currently at risk. Most objects will be photographed, some in 3D.

The project means the UK is set to become the first country in the world to create a free-to-access online photographic showcase of its publicly-owned sculpture.

Since 2015, staff and volunteers have been trained to begin documenting works inside galleries, museums and public buildings, as well as outdoors in parks, streets and squares.

As well implementing more training and recruiting further volunteers, the project will include public learning, engagement and outreach. A programme called ‘Masterpieces in Schools’ will see 125 sculptures taken into primary and secondary schools for the day.

A series of 75 ‘Sculpture Around You’ activities will see sculptures taken to shopping centres for people to gain knowledge about the collection, while 60 films about sculpture and sculptors will be made with and by young people. Art UK will also be opening a small office in Glasgow, bringing the project closer to collections and audiences in Scotland.

The organisation is working with seven partners to bring the project to fruition: the BBC, the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Culture Street, Factum Foundation, the Royal British Society of Sculptors, the Royal Photographic Society and VocalEyes.

Funding for the project is provided through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, the Scottish Government, plus a range of large and small grant-giving trusts and over 70 individual and corporate donors.

Katey Goodwin, Art UK deputy director, head of digitisation and public engagement, said: “Having been developing the plans for Art UK for four years, we want to say a huge thank you to all the people and organisations that have supported this ambitious project and helped us get to this point. We are very excited to get started!”

1. William Pye, Kanazawa, 2000. Situated in Selsey, West Sussex. © the artist. Photo: Anthony McIntosh (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 UK).
2. Art UK, volunteer photography training, 2015. Photo: Art UK.

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