Shetlandcelebrates Your Paintings: Unseen paintings on display

by Misa Hay -

As part of the Your Paintings celebration, Shetland Museum and Archives is showing a number of the collection's oil and acrylic paintings, normally kept in storage, from 8 to 24 February.  These paintings are part of the two-year project undertaken by Dr Carol Christiansen in partnership with the BBC.

The paintings are on display throughout the galleries, with guided tours available by Visitor Service Assistant staff.  There is also a slideshow in the entrance foyer showing additional paintings which are not able to be displayed. In addition to the exhibition of paintings, Dr Christiansen led the monthly "Sheeksin" session on the topic of the Your Paintings Project.  

This event is part of a nationwide series of activities to celebrate the completion of Your Paintings, a website for the entire UK national collection of oil paintings created by the BBC in partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation. All 211,861 paintings are now available to view online at: www.bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings.

Held in over 3,000 galleries, museums and other civic buildings around the country, these paintings span over 600 years of art history – arguably the greatest national collection of its kind in the world. Due to limitations of exhibition space, 80% of these works are normally held in storage and not easily visible to the people who own them – the UK public.

Dr Christiansen said “We have nearly 200 oil paintings, of which only about 35 are on regular display.  The nationwide celebrations have allowed us to bring out 20 more paintings from storage, and to highlight some of the research we have done into our collection during the project”.

The Your Paintings website features paintings from 441 museums, galleries and public buildings in Scotland. They include major attractions such as The Burrell Collection, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh Castle, The Gordon Highlanders Museum and even the Scottish Football Museum.

In addition, the BBC invite the public to "tag" paintings on local collections on the website.  There will be a computer in the upper foyer for visitors to have a go. This data will allow future users of the Your Paintings website to easily find paintings by subjects, themes and events that interest them in our region. The tagging process doesn't require expert knowledge, but those with specialist information on paintings in the collection are invited to contact the Public Catalogue Foundation.

Andrew Ellis from the Public Catalogue Foundation said: "No other country has ever embarked on such a project to make accessible online its entire collection of oil paintings. The result is an extraordinary rich and varied virtual gallery of paintings with styles and subject matters to suit all tastes and interests. Anyone can now contribute to the project by tagging paintings so that the paintings can be searched in future. Tagging is easy, fun and, for many, addictive!"

Saul Nasse, Controller from BBC Learning said: "The idea that we could put on virtual display all the UK's paintings was madly ambitious, but thanks to a brilliant partnership with the PCF, we've realised that ambition.  Your Paintings is a thing of beauty and I'm hoping the events that we're rolling out right across the country are going to inspire thousands more people to learn about these wonderful paintings."

Taken together, this collection of 211,861 paintings presents an unparalleled insight into the nation's culture and history. Paintings by over 37,000 artists are on the Your Paintings website, including Old Masters and works by leading British artists. Just fewer than 30,000 paintings do not have firm artist attributions, leaving the possibility of important discoveries in years to come.

To see and tag Your Paintings and find out more about our event and participating galleries, museums and public buildings in Shetland please visit bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings.