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The first sculptures being added to Art UK marks an important milestone in the delivery of our sculpture project. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and we are delighted with the results.

As of February 2019, we are about halfway through the project, which started in May 2017 and runs to June 2020. What have we achieved in this time and what is there left to do?

We’ve recruited and trained an enthusiastic and dedicated team of staff and volunteers. We have 42 project staff – one project manager, 26 staff in the digitisation team, 12 editorial, content, copyright and operations staff, and three learning and engagement staff. The team is based across the UK, from northern Scotland to the south coast of England, in Wales and in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Coordinator Dickon Hall with Photographer Bryan Rutledge at Ulster Museum

Northern Ireland Coordinator Dickon Hall with Photographer Bryan Rutledge at Ulster Museum

Forty freelance professional photographers are working with the digitisation team to photograph sculpture in collections.

Photographer Mike Davidson at Maggies Aberdeen

Photographer Mike Davidson at Maggies Aberdeen

Over 130 volunteers are helping to research and photograph public sculpture.

Volunteer photography in action

Volunteer photography in action

Sculpture photography started in April 2017. So far we have spent 300 days photographing sculpture in collections, producing over 20,000 images of 3,000 sculptures. We know that over 2,000 public organisations across the UK hold sculpture, so there is still a lot to do!

Photographer Dave Griffin at Dyffryn House and Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan

Photographer Dave Griffin at Dyffryn House and Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan

We are not yet sure of the final number of sculptures that will be included in the project, as we haven’t started working with a few large collections yet, but we should have a better idea in 2020, towards the end of the project.

Our learning and engagement team has been busy setting up a very ambitious programme of activities and they have already run some innovative, exciting events.

We hope to run 125 Masterpieces in Schools events which see sculpture taken into a school for a day. We have run 12 events so far with over 1,000 people taking part. Nearly 70 events have been planned to date.

Pupils from Weetwood Primary School, Leeds, take part in a Masterpieces in Schools event

Pupils from Weetwood Primary School, Leeds, take part in a Masterpieces in Schools event

We will be running 75 Sculpture Around You events, with community groups and the public. Our project partners VocalEyes are developing workshops for blind and partially sighted people.

A VocalEyes workshop for blind and partially sighted people at Leeds Art Gallery

A VocalEyes workshop for blind and partially sighted people at Leeds Art Gallery

The Sculpture Around You programme is already fully booked. Fourteen events have been held so far, with over 225 people taking part.

Sculpting faces from Celcon blocks in Edmonthorpe, Leicestershire

Sculpting faces from Celcon blocks in Edmonthorpe, Leicestershire

Part of a Sculpture Around You activity run by the Churches Conservation Trust

Project partners Culture Street are making 35 films – 25 sculpture films with schools across the UK and 10 films with contemporary artists exploring sculptural practice. A third of these have been made to date, with nearly 200 people taking part. The films will be added to Art UK soon. Culture Street has also just launched a competition, called the 4MinuteFilm Challenge, which encourages schools to make their own films about sculpture.

Making a film at Merton College, Oxford

Making a film at Merton College, Oxford

We are also running a series of training sessions for staff and volunteers from the public organisations taking part in the project, providing practical training in digitisation and looking after the sculpture in their collections.

Digitisation training at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston

Digitisation training at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston

So, what’s next? As well as continuing to digitise sculptures, add them to Art UK and run learning and training events across the UK, we will be:

  • undertaking 3D imaging of selected sculptures across the UK
  • setting up work experience days in museums and galleries for students from state schools
  • launching a programme for photography students to shadow our photographers to learn about photographing sculpture in a variety of locations
  • running a knowledge exchange programme with museum professionals from Greece to learn about the Masterpieces in Schools initiative

Photography at the Royal Courts of Justice, London

Photography at the Royal Courts of Justice, London

We would like to thank our funders, project partners and the Sculpture Steering Panel for all their help with setting up and running this project.

We also couldn’t have got to this point without the support of the UK’s public organisations that have given us access to their sculptures and are contributing to our learning programme.

Last, but definitely not least, we are indebted to our project staff, photographers and volunteers, who are diligently working away in many different parts of the country and who are making this project such a success!

Katey Goodwin, Art UK’s Deputy Director, Head of Digitisation and Public Engagement

To find out more about the project, download the press release