The Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) is photographing the nation's oil painting collection and making it accessible through a series of printed catalogues and the Your Paintings website.
The UK's Oil Painting Collection
The United Kingdom holds in its galleries and civic buildings arguably the greatest publicly owned collection of oil paintings in the world. 200,000 publicly owned oil paintings are held in institutions ranging from museums large and small to town halls, universities, hospitals and even fire stations.
However, four in five of these paintings are not on view. Whilst many galleries make strenuous efforts to display their collections, many paintings across the country are held in storage, usually because there are insufficient funds and space to show them. Furthermore, very few galleries have created a complete photographic record of their paintings, let alone a comprehensive illustrated catalogue of their collections. In short, what is publicly owned is not publicly accessible.
The PCF's Work
Over the last few years the PCF has been photographing these paintings and collating information about each painting. In doing this it has been working closely with collections up and down the country. The PCF is now well over halfway through this project, having photographed nearly 110,000 paintings from over 1,600 collections. It expects to complete the digitisation programme by late 2012, funding permitting.
Putting the Project Online
Until recently, the PCF’s main focus was publishing a series of hard copy catalogues. Now its focus is turning to publishing online. Online access allows users to search paintings by various criteria and view larger images, whilst collections will be able to update their painting records. Most importantly, it gives the PCF’s work a much larger and wider audience.To achieve this aim, the PCF has entered into a partnership with the BBC to build the Your Paintings website. Together the two organisations are radically improving the public’s awareness of the oil paintings they own but, in most cases, cannot see. Your Paintings launched in the summer of 2011.