Gone are the days when you had to travel the world to see great art. Although you can’t beat the real thing, many digital alternatives are available that allow art enthusiasts from all over the world to explore art online. Digital archives from some of the world’s most esteemed museums are continuing to grow thanks to their curators, contributing institutions, and funding. One museum to join to digital world is Britain’s Tate Modern, who have not only added more than one million items to their online gallery (making them the world’s largest archive of British art), but have also included rare excerpts from artists’ personal sketchbooks, letters, diaries, and photographs.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Tate’s Archives & Access project contains a rich array of published artists’ materials that document the “lives and working processes of British born and émigré artists from more than 900 archive collections.” Among the collection are personal photographs belonging to Eileen Agar, where in one, her friend and fellow artist, Pablo Picasso, is captured relaxing on a beach. Also archived are scans from Agar’s sketchbooks, where she experimented with colorful strips of cellophane. More treasure can be found in the One hundred and fifty nine drawings and watercolours by Josef Herman collection, where a vast array of the artist’s sketches have been included.
The project also invites viewers to use their various digital tools, such as the Albums feature, which allows users to curate and share their favorite collection pieces, and AnnoTate, an online crowdsourcing transcription tool that encourages audiences to transcribe their thoughts about the online artwork. There’s also a YouTube series, which accompanies the digitization, called Animating the Archives that explores the work of the artists in the collections.