Published October 6, 2022 | Version v1
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First Report - Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage


Transforming Collections aims to enable digital search across collections, to uncover patterns of bias in collections systems and narratives, to reveal hidden connections, and to open up new interpretative frames and ‘potential histories’ of art, nation and heritage. Whose voices, bodies and experiences are centred and privileged in collections? This project is underpinned by the belief that a national collection cannot be imagined without addressing structural inequalities, contested heritage and contentious histories embedded in objects. In 1999, the late sociologist and cultural theorist Stuart Hall posed the question ‘Whose heritage?’. Hall called for the ‘unsettling’ and ‘reimagining’ of heritage and nation. More than 20 years on, the need to critically question and transform notions of ‘heritage’ and ‘nation’ remain as urgent as ever. Our approach brings together academic and artistic research into collections and museum practices with participatory machine learning (ML) design. A series of artistic residencies will lead to new works that critically and creatively activate the emerging research and ML tools. A major public programme with Tate Learning will generate insights and understandings of the ways in which the Transforming Collections research can enable new stories to be told. Led by UAL in close partnership with Tate among our 16 partners across the UK, the project seeks to surface suppressed histories, amplify marginalised voices, and re-evaluate artists and artworks long ignored or side-lined by dominant narratives and institutional practices. We want to imagine an inclusive, evolving, (re)distributed ‘national collection’ that builds on and enriches existing knowledge with multiple and multivocal narratives, to critically connect and imaginatively disrupt collections, and transform them.



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Towards a National Collection Programme Directorate AH/V000802/1
UK Research and Innovation