The British will digitize the entire collection. £10 million project

British Museum launches mammoth digitization project: plan is to put entire collection online. 2.4 million objects, £10 million. The idea also came about in the wake of recent thefts: according to the museum, the more visible a work is, the more noticeable its absence.

The British Museum in London has set out in recent hours its plan to digitize its entire collection. There is talk of a project to throw as many as 2.4 million objects online over five years: the whole thing will cost 10 million pounds, or 11.5 million euros. At the end of the work, for the first time the entire collection will be accessible to anyone who wants to explore it. In addition to this online resource, the museum has also announced plans for improved access to the museum’s study rooms, where members of the public and academics can view additional items from the collection by appointment. Digitization of the collection will also help ward off thefts such as those that have occurred repeatedly at the museum in recent years and led to the resignation of director Hartwig Fischer.

Mark Jones, acting director of the British Museum, said, “Following the discovery that objects were stolen from the collection, we have taken steps to improve security and are now confident that such theft will never occur again. But we cannot and should not assume that the security of the collection, in the broadest sense, can be achieved simply by putting everything under lock and key. I am convinced that the most important response to theft is to increase access, because the more a collection is known-and the more it is used-the sooner any absences are noticed. That’s why, instead of setting the collection aside, we want to make it the most valued, used, and seen collection in the world.”

“Over the next five years,” Jones continues, “we have set ourselves the goal of improving and completing the online recording of every object in the British Museum’s collection. It’s a daunting task, with 2.4 million records to upload or update, but more than half have already been done, and when it’s finished it will mean that everyone, no matter where in the world they live, will be able to see everything we have, and use this extraordinary resource in a myriad of ways.”

At the same time, the British’s desire is to strengthen partnerships with museums across the United Kingdom and around the world, “so that our traveling exhibitions,” Jones concludes, “bring the originals to millions of people who might never visit the British Museum itself, while at the same time providing better access to our study rooms so that every interested person can come and see everything we hold.”

George Osborne, chairman of the board, said, “The British Museum houses one of the most incredible collections in the world, with objects that amaze and inspire us, and often encourage us to change our perspective. We already have some of the highest visitor numbers of any museum in the world and an extensive national and international tour program, but Mark has set out a compelling plan to ensure the widest possible access and engagement with the collection-and I couldn’t be more supportive of his ambitions.”

The British will digitize the entire collection. £10 million project
The British will digitize the entire collection. £10 million project

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