Thursday, October 01, 2020

British Museum: Prints and Drawings - The Solution!

Yesterday I highlighted the problems with accessing the Virtual Gallery of the Prints and Drawings held in the permanent collection of the British Museum. 

Today I have the solution

This page provides the Collection search guide.  It's one of those guides which provides a lot of information for what is obviously a really big database of images.

Collection online has been completely redeveloped, making it much easier to find what you want. It allows access to almost four and a half million objects in more than two million records. The search is more intuitive and now offers suggestions as you type.

Unfortunately they completely forgot to provide a shorthand version - with links to certain specific types of drawings e.g Drawings or Prints.

It's almost as if 

  • they've started off from the perspective of the complexity of their collection 
  • rather than 
    • EITHER asking people what they'd like to search for 
    • OR done any analysis of the search queries that bring people to the British Museum website. 
The latter is the one which keeps me on my toes in terms of me tweaking my own website to make the most popular also the most accessible!

Progressive refinement of key words and filters

However if you start at this Explore the Collection Page and put "drawings" in the search window you get this

  • So I then selected "objects" as the filter type on the left - and got a lot of objects some of which clearly were NOT drawings. So I think I'd suggest a quality audit of the referencing by key words!
  • Rather annoyingly the feedback link for the individual pages which are not relevant to drawing goes to the "Sorry we can't find that page" - suggesting somebody needs to do a major audit for DEAD LINKS!!
Started again and selected 'paper' as the filter (under 'drawings') and got a rather better set of results

I then added 'flower' as an additional key word - and got an even better set of results - given I'm particularly interested in flower / botanical drawings and came across some 17th century Persian Drawings of flowers that I've never ever seen before.

Artists


I next tried Artists. The trick appears to be quite precise as to what you want to see - and remember/spell names correctly!

Do NOT use quotation marks around the artist's name - I got a nil result when I tried it with one artist.

So for example, if you add in an artist's name e.g. Thomas Rowlandson - you get a great collection of Rowlandson's pen and ink and wash drawings

I added in Ehret and got nine examples of works by or associated with one of my heroes Georg Ehret ( see About Georg Ehret on my website) 

The quality of the digital image is FABULOUS!  But you must first click on the image, go to its individual page and use the plus (+) icons to go in as far as the image will let you.

Drawn by Georg Dionysius Ehret
collection of the British Museum

I tried again and inserted Joseph Mallord William Turner and got some fabulous watercolour sketches and painting which allow you to see his technique up close. 

crop of a Topographic representation of: River Washburn by Joseph William Mallord Turner collection of the British Museum

The total number of items related to Turner exceeds 3,000!  That's because - although he painted a LOT - the search query also picked up people like John Sell Cotman who created drawings "after Turner".

Conclusion


There is undoubtedly lots of wonderful things to see in database of digitized images of items in the Permanent Collection of the British Museum.

For me it'll be one of those links I'll bookmark and try out while having a cup of tea - to see what comes up under different queries and keywords. I think there are lots of surprises.....

Here's a few more I found 
One interesting fact - there are 12,595 objects related to Painting - but only 200 of these are oil paintings - one of which is a very fine paintings of Portrait of: Dr Robert Anderson (Director of the BM) by Tom Phillips RA who has 55 items in the British Museum.

It's the ultimate surfing sinkhole!

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