UK-wide digital collections database

The project will bring together high-level information about collections across the UK. Trustees of the Natural History Museum.

Simon Stephens, Project launched to create UK-wide digital collections database, Museums Association, 8 December 2022

Museum Data Service will provide infrastructure to pool millions of object records in one place.

A plan to hugely improve access to digital collections data has been unveiled by Art UK, Collections Trust and the University of Leicester.

The partnership is aiming is to create digital infrastructure that will pool millions of object records and share them for use by the public and researchers. The Museum Data Service will be launched in autumn 2023.

This project, which is being developed with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, will also provide high-level information about each collection.

The arts education charity Art UK is building on its work digitising the UK’s artworks and making them accessible online. It already brings more than 300,000 artworks, from 3,400 collections, to an online audience of more than 4.5 million people a year. The Museum Data Service will allow Art UK to scale up its operation, adding millions more artworks over time.

Collections Trust, the charity that helps museums connect collections and audiences, will use its relationship with hundreds of smaller museums to help them make the most of the new service.

The University of Leicester’s Institute for Digital Culture will bring a research dimension to the design and use of the service, as well as data expertise and technical capacity.

With guidance from the Open Data Institute on sustainable data stewardship, the three founding partners will set up a new joint organisation by spring 2024 to run the core service beyond the start-up phase. The governance structure for the Museum Data Service will be announced soon.

Art UK director Andrew Ellis said: “The benefits to our audiences and participating collections will be significant in terms of the growth in artworks joining Art UK and the growth in commercial income. But the real excitement here is to be working with Collections Trust and the University of Leicester on such a transformational initiative for the wider sector, one that will do so much to reduce silos and grow knowledge sharing.”