What is digitisation?
Digitisation is a blanket term that is used for the creation of digital copies or versions of any analogue media, physical objects or documents. Most digitisation involves photographing or scanning these items. The Covid19 pandemic highlighted how important it was for Museums and Galleries to have their collections and exhibitions online for the purposes of education, access and audience engagement. With support from Creative Victoria and the Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA), Bendigo Art Gallery is participating in the Regional Gallery Digitisation Project with the aim to digitise our entire collection of 5000+ objects. Established in 1887, the Bendigo Art Gallery collection, consists mostly of art objects such as painting, works on paper, sculpture, and more recently, contemporary textiles!
The digital variant does not replace the original object but creates a valuable digital record and visual reference. Digitisation increases access to the collection and these images can be utilised in many different ways.
Conservation and Care
Digitisation is a very important component in the preservation and conservation of the collection. The core objective of any collecting institution is of course to care for and preserve its collection objects. Having images of every collection object on file allows curators, researchers and members of other institutions remote access to the collection. Referencing the digital variant can reduce the physical handling of objects and therefore decrease the risk of damage or exposure to potential wear and tear. High resolution images can also allow conservators to assess the condition of an art object remotely, before inspecting the object in person. Before and after images of conservation and restoration work is also a vital reference tool. Along with the ongoing condition reporting that collection managers carry out, any images that are taken throughout an object’s lifespan, act as timestamps, providing evidence of any deterioration or damage.
Unknown. Horse 20th Century, unglazed earthenware, pigment decoration. Collection Bendigo Art Gallery. Gift of Mrs. G.M. Shannon in memory of Dr. Russell Glover Shannon, 1988. Image Credit: Ian Hill
When photographing an artwork it is important to display its unique qualities and attributes such as its material, surface, texture, colour and shape. The photograph must be composed in a way that provides the viewer with an accurate and detailed representation. This is more difficult than you might think!
Marlene Rubuntja. **Wrapped up in our art** 2019, cotton, wool, bush dyed woollen blanket, Belgium linen. Collection Bendigo Art Gallery. Image Credit: Ian Hill
Digitisation provides not only a valuable resource for the gallery internally. Our efforts will also be geared towards the online collection. This is becoming an increasingly important interface for public engagement with the collection. Many large galleries and museums have completed the process of putting their entire collections online.
George Rowe, Kangaroo Flat 1857. watercolour. Collection Bendigo Art Gallery. Gift of the Estate of Mr. Robert Mackay, 1929. Image Credit: Ian Hill.
While we’d love to have as many artworks on display as possible and viewed by everyone, we simply don’t have the space! And we also need to give our precious items a rest to ensure their longevity. Making our whole collection available online will enable everyone’s favourite artworks to be viewed, anytime, anywhere.
Ben Blacket, Sarah Brown and Elyse de Valle
The digitisation team