What is digitisation?
Digitisation is the process of creating digital copies or versions of any analogue media, physical objects or documents.
COVID-19 highlighted how important it was for museums and galleries to have collections and exhibitions online to ensure we could continue to provide access, education, and maintain a relationship with our audience.
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 5,000+ 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. Each step in this process is carried out by trained gallery staff and requires special handling and record keeping, following contemporary art museum procedures.
Digitisation increases access to the collection and these images can be utilised in many different ways. The digital variant does not replace the original object but creates a valuable digital record and visual reference.
Digitising our collection means we will be able to provide free online access to our collections, directly from our website, for the general community, art students, artists and researchers, both locally and globally.
Conservation and Care
The core objective of any collecting institution is to care for and preserve its collection objects. Digitisation is a very important component in the preservation and conservation of the collection.
Having images of every collection object on file allows curators, researchers and members of other institutions to access it remotely, which can help to protect the collection.
Referencing the digital version reduces the physical handling of objects and therefore decreases 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
Capturing the collection
Digitisation is a highly complex and labour intensive task, with each artwork requiring removal from storage or exhibition, unpacking, scanning/photographing, repackaging and returning to storage. Our collection database will then need to be updated with the information and images for easy access.
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 which 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
In addition to providing a valuable resource for us to use, digitising our collection will make it more accessible to the general public.
While we’d love to have as many artworks on display as possible and viewed by everyone, we need to give our precious items a rest to ensure their longevity, plus we simply don’t have the space. Making our whole collection available online will enable everyone’s favourite artworks to be viewed, anytime, anywhere.
George Rowe, Kangaroo Flat 1857. watercolour. Collection Bendigo Art Gallery. Gift of the Estate of Mr. Robert Mackay, 1929. Image Credit: Ian Hill.
Throughout the project we are providing a number of workshops and events to showcase the process of digitisation and to inform the general public about the processes used for archiving, digitising and care of art works. To learn more visit our events page.
Ben Blacket, Sarah Brown and Elyse de Valle
The digitisation team