National Portrait Gallery's digitisation milestone
by Ross Halfin
© Ross Halfin
100,000 portraits digitised for the nation
The National Portrait Gallery has recently digitised its 100,000th portrait. This significant achievement would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication from all staff involved, past and present, both within the Digitisation team and across the Gallery.
Digitisation of the Gallery's collections began in 1996, focusing on the Primary Collection. The Gallery begin making its portraits available online and through the Portrait Printer in 1997 and this work also led to the publication of the Complete Illustrated Catalogue in 2004. Digitisation of the Archive and Photographs Collections began in 1999 and work steadily continued with one member of staff. Funding from the Department of Culture Media and Sport was secured in 2002 for an additional staff member to scan photographs from the Gallery's large collection of Bassano negatives and in 2004 the team was permanently expanded to two.
The Gallery received a substantial donation from the Lerner Foundation in 2008, allowing the creation of an new three year position in Digitisation in late 2009. This has enabled the team to dramatically increase the number of works made available to the public via the Gallery's website, the Portrait Printer and the Portrait Explorer service within the Gallery and at Regional Partners around the UK. The past 2 and a half years have seen the figures rocket from 70,000 to the this month's 100,000 milestone.
The 100,000th portrait to be scanned by the Digitisation team was a signed, limited edition print of Jimmy Page, photographed in 2009 by Ross Halfin and recently donated to the Gallery by Dave Brolan on behalf of the legendary guitarist. The photograph forms part of a limited edition portfolio of five images of the rock star signed by the photographers and the sitter. Photographs of Page whilst performing with Led Zeppelin, known at the time as ‘the biggest band in the world’, by Jorgen Angel in Copenhagen in 1970, Dick Barnatt at Earls Court Arena in 1975, Neal Preston at Chicago Stadium in 1977 and Baron Wolman at Oakland Coliseum, California in 1977 complete the portfolio.
2012 will continue to be a significant year for Digitisation at the Gallery, with a dedicated photographic studio being built in the early summer thanks to a donation from the Garfield Weston Foundation. The studio will enable the systematic photography of works from the Gallery's collections for the first time in its history, expanding on the in-house photography introduced over the past 2 years, which has included product shots for the online shop and new photography of the Gallery's spaces. This will allow portraits from the Photographs and Archive Collections which are not suitable for scanning, such as those bound in albums, drawings and larger than A2, to be accessed by the public for the first time.
Emma Cavalier, Digitisation Manager