Seventy years ago, the French art critic André Malraux announced his intent to create Le Musée Imaginaire: the museum of the imagination. Conceptualised as a collection of artwork images from all museums that could travel and be edited and increased over time, it was perhaps the earliest forerunner of the internet art archives of today.
Whether it is in this vein we do not know, but the charity group Art UK recently announced it will endeavour to photograph and digitise images of every publicly owned sculpture in the UK in the next three years. The group estimates the number of sculptures and outdoor monuments owned by Britain to be around 166,500. Most are not on display and have never been properly photographed. Not only does that make them difficult for the public, which paid for them, to enjoy, but it also makes maintenance and restoration a challenge.
The cost of the project is estimated at about £3.8 million, most of which has already been pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which channels the proceeds earned from national lottery players toward projects that preserve the national cultural heritage of Britain. If this newest manifestation of Le Musée Imaginaire
is successful, Britain will become the first nation in the world to accomplish such a feat.
Image caption: Volunteer photography training in Bath during the HLF-funded project development, 2015, Photo credit: Katey Goodwin via Art UK.