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15 June 2015

Mike Bayne, White Building, 2007, oil on masonite panel.  Purchase, Donald Murray Shepherd Bequest Fund, 2012 (55-002) Photo: Bernard Clark

In an exciting step extending access to the rich collections of the Agnes, the first phase of the Agnes Online Collections Initiative is now available for browsing and searching. Over the past six months, with the help of a Development Grant through the Elizabeth L. Gordon Art Program (through the Ontario Arts Foundation), a small team led by Collections Manager Jennifer Nicoll prepared images and documentation for nearly 2500 works of art to create an accessible virtual vault of art treasures.

Gallery Director Jan Allen explained the drive to create an enduring online repository, “Art museums today are embracing public demand and interest in exploring collections virtually, and the Agnes is no exception. We’re eager to share our extraordinary collections, to make them available locally and globally to everyone with access to the internet. This initiative builds on past efforts, and extends and synthesizes these in a major upgrade to our new web platform”

In this first phase of an ambitious digitization program, the team focused on recently acquired and high-demand works. Featured material includes the gallery’s renowned collections of Canadian and European historical art, contemporary art, and African Art. All works acquired in the past decade are presented, as well as important Canadian artworks acquired through significant donations by Ruth Soloway, and Ayala and Samuel Zacks, and major contemporary art purchases made with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition grant and Queen’s University’s Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund, established to further the study of Canada. Signature items from the Historical Quilt Collection and the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian dress have been added.

Jennifer Nicoll points out another benefit of posting complete and accessible records for rare art and artifacts: “Digitization contributes to the preservation of the artworks by reducing the need for handling and resulting wear and tear when these objects are examined. By offering easily retrievable information and high quality images, this initiative has improved our capacity to use technology to further enhance and support our collection and programs.”

The Agnes on-line searchable collections attract many users, from members of the general public to artists, art historians, researchers and scholars from varied fields, teachers, students of any age, museum professionals and collecting institutions. Jan Allen affirms, “This work is crucial to the gallery’s vitality. There is a tremendous potential here. As resources are found, we will push forward to make our collections, and our research and artistic contributions fully available online.”