Services > Projects > Fine Art >

The National Fine Art Education Digital Collection

Feasibility Study

In producing the pilot resource, VADS' aim was to establish a model, and explore the feasibility of expanding this model to produce a full-scale digital collection of works of art which are examples of high quality fine art practice, generated by the staff and students of British art schools and institutes. In so doing VADS has defined best practices (by scale, circumstance and technical complexities of existing physical collections) for the digitisation and delivery of a distributed National Fine Art Education Digital Collection.

In order to identify institutions that would like to help develop the prototype and secondly to get an idea of the range of works that could be selected to form the foundation collection, a questionnaire was sent out to members of CHEAD (the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design), the NAFAE (National Association of Fine Art Education) and the Universities Museum Group (UMG), as well as through Higher Education mailing lists.

As well as soliciting interest, the questionnaire would help to identify a variety of other issues, which would enable the pilot resource to represent a broad range of institutions, collections, formats, facilities and time periods. The response from across the UK was tremendous, confirming again both the quality of work held in collections and high levels of interest in the project.

The Hanging Committee

While the results of the survey were being collated, work was also underway to set up a Hanging Committee which would advise on policy matters affecting the quality, vitality and sustainability of the National Collection decide items to be included in the pilot collection advise on administrative and other organisational arrangements for the effective attraction, selection and inclusion of works within the National Collection.

The following people kindly agreed to serve on the Hanging Committee, and a meeting took place in December 2001.

Professor John Aiken
Slade Professor of Fine Art, University College London & Sculptor, England
Professor Sam Ainsley
Head of Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art, Scotland
Stroud Cornock
Curator, CNAA Collection & Fine artist / electronic media, England
Kate Hainsworth
Chief Executive Officer, AXIS (Digital documentation of contemporary visual artists), England
Professor Chris Wainwright
Dean of Fine Art, Central Saint Martins & Photo / electronic fine artist, England
Professor Roger Wilson
Pro Vice Chancellor/Dean of Art & Design, Manchester Metropolitan University; Chair of CHEAD & Fine artist, England

The Hanging Committee provided the content, rather than technical, steer for the project, and selected in a targeted manner so that a representative collection of key players in the history of Fine Art Education provided the core to the Collection. It was felt that the collections policy could also draw upon the wealth of curatorial, professional and practical knowledge within HEI art departments themselves. The Department's understanding of the Collection's remit was therefore vital, so the collection policy was decided as,

Examples of work and documentation associated with and held within Institutions which represent value and influence of the artist practitioner in Fine Art Education.

Ensuring that the collection was suitably diverse in the technical aspects necessary to evaluate the process and prognosis for an expandible model, the following institutions were invited to submit works for the first phase of the National Fine Art Collection.


The digitisation, or construction phase of the project began in March 2002, kick started by meetings with each individual HEI at the end of February 2002. In order to coordinate the distributed nature of the digitisation project, the following proformas were used by each institution to catalogue, digitise and copyright clear works from their collections.

To view PDF files you need to download and install Adobe's Acrobat Reader, freely available from

Case Studies

In order to test out some of the protocols that were developed during the course of the project, two case studies were commissioned by the Project team.

The first set about re-using the fine art project's protocols as a means of collecting student work as they leave colleges. This was because, during the survey, it was found that many colleges had no collections of student work, or had ceased to collect student work, due to matters of space and resources; insuring, housing and managing the collections was deemed too costly. The Project protocols could therefore be re-purposed with the objective of creating a contemporary archive of student work in digital format only, thence avoiding many of the aforementioned factors.

The Case Study tested the protocols at the same time as looking at the use of Digital Photography for capturing the artworks. The Technical Advisory Service for Images undertook the work, and used the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College's Fine Art Department as the test bed for the study. To download the entire case study, please click on the link below.

The second case study was undertaken by the Royal College of Art. Having photographed their student show for the past 25 years with conventional photographic methods, they have begun to experiment with direct digital capture. The photographic process, along with other issues such as the use of digial images by academic staff, and the advantages and disadvantages of online catalogues, have all been written up in the case study. To download the entire case study, please click on the link below.

To view PDF files you need to download and install Adobe's Acrobat Reader, freely available from

To find out more about the progress of the project or to add your own comments and discuss any aspect of the project, please join the National Fine Art Collection jiscmail discussion list, or email the Project Manager, Polly Christie. Otherwise, please bookmark this page so that you can be kept updated on the project's outcomes and findings.

The Fine Art Project jiscmail list can be joined by sending the following message to

join fine-art yourfirstname yourlastname



about        contact        terms of use        image credits        © 2017