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A Museum Without Walls: Realising the Potential of Crowdsourcing in the Arts

A Museum Without Walls: Realising the Potential of Crowdsourcing in the Arts


This Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project will study an innovative crowdsourcing initiative and its impact on an important new digital art collection. The Your Paintings Tagger has been created to encourage the public to add vital metadata to underpin and augment Your Paintings, a digital art collection hosted by the BBC that will soon contain a digital image of every publicly owned oil painting in the UK, a collection of 200,000 images. Both Your Paintings and Your Paintings Tagger will bring the public into close and interactive contact with publicly owned art that will be available as a complete collection for the first time. The main purpose of the study is to answer the question: what is the impact of inviting the public to tag paintings in this way? As an increasingly popular form of generating content and analysis from large data sets, research to discover whether crowdsourcing initiatives are successful, what are the costs and benefits of such an approach, and how these lessons are to be conveyed to the relevant communities for future endeavours is a high priority.

A key objective of this research is to examine the extent to which crowdsourcing initiatives such as Your Paintings Tagger provide an interface between cultural heritage, academic research, and the public. By adding metadata to Your Paintings Tagger, the public contribute in a concrete and lasting way to a resource that has the power to transform academic research. Using this content, not only will the public be able to access and explore a hitherto hidden collection, multiple new academic research projects will be enabled by the ability to connect previously scattered art works.

Crowdsourcing, citizen science projects and community collections can serve as vital outreach projects connecting the general public to important research and resources, breaking down borders between academia and the public and providing new and intricate means of knowledge exchange. They can reinvigorate, renew and reinforce existing communities surrounding (both analogue and digital) resources, helping to sustain our cultural heritage.


Key Information

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Project dates:
    October 2012 - June 2013


    Project Press Coverage