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Mayor - Opportunities to Enjoy the Your Paintings Project Locally

Author: Justine Halsey, BBC Published: 5th February 2013 10:54

 Mayor - Opportunities to Enjoy the Your Paintings Project Locally128 paintings from The Higgins Bedford's collection are featured in a major new initiative intended to showcase the UK's entire collection of oil paintings, and we are marking the occasion with a series of postcards to collect and an interactive project for everyone to enjoy.

Your Paintings' is a joint initiative between the BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation that aims to increase access to the many oil paintings held in public collections within the UK. So far, the public catalogue foundation has photographed 212,000 oil paintings, and the BBC has presented all of these paintings on the Your Paintings website - www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/

This February there will be events across the UK celebrating the completion of the nation's Your Paintings website. The Higgins, Bedford is celebrating too. There are 128 of Bedford's oil paintings, held at The Higgins, which are featured on the site, and we have printed six of them as postcards. Each of the six postcard designs shows a historic view of Bedford. These postcards can be picked up at independent shops and restaurants, the Tourist Information Centre or Bedford Central Library.

The Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said: "We are marking the Higgins Bedford's contribution to this fantastic national project by celebrating six historic views of Bedford. We hope that people enjoy matching and comparing the historic views with the sites as they are now, and hope that the project makes people look forward to visiting The Higgins Bedford when it re-opens."

Why not match one of these historic views with the current view? This can be achieved by taking a photo that includes the postcard view, as well as the contemporary equivalent. Send photos to:

No prizes...it's just for fun!

Explore more of the collection at Your Paintings www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/

Bedford Borough Council

The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford is a Bedford Borough Council cultural facility. Bedford Borough values cultural provision as a vital component in making Bedford a better place to live, work and visit. In particular The Higgins contributes to making Bedford an ‘Inclusive Borough' - where people, whatever their background, feel part of the wider community and are proud to celebrate its rich diversity; where inequalities are reduced and all people are able to participate in the sporting, artistic and civic life of the Borough.

The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford

The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford will unite on one site three previous cultural venues: Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford Museum and Bedford Gallery. Following the merging of staffing and operations in 2005, a £5.8m project is now allowing the buildings to be joined together and redeveloped throughout.

The Higgins is based around the historic buildings of the Castle Brewery and a Victorian family home, both built by the Higgins family in the mid-19th century. It is located in attractive gardens by the riverside in the centre of town, on the site once occupied by Bedford Castle.

When it reopens in Spring 2013, The Higgins will feature new displays, temporary exhibitions and extensive learning and events programmes. A new, single entrance foyer will lead through to redeveloped galleries, large activity spaces, a shop, and a café.

The Higgins will explore the inspiring stories of local people and encourage a ‘sense of place' for Bedford and the surrounding area. It will also showcase the wonderful and varied collections left for the enjoyment of local people. These include the Cecil Higgins Collection of fine and decorative arts, with its world-class watercolour and print collections and unique groups of work by the designers William Burges and Edward Bawden.

It is hoped that The Higgins will attract a wider range of visitors to Bedford, as well as being an excellent resource for local people. The Higgins will be more than an art gallery and museum - the plan is for it to become a ‘hub' at the centre of Bedford, used as a venue for a wide range of activities, including family events, social functions for local communities, talks and workshops.

Your Paintings

The UK's Oil Painting Collection

The United Kingdom holds in its galleries and civic buildings arguably the greatest publicly owned collection of oil paintings in the world. 210,000 publicly owned oil paintings are held in institutions ranging from museums large and small to town halls, universities, hospitals and even fire stations.

However, four in five of these paintings are not on view. Whilst many galleries make strenuous efforts to display their collections, many paintings across the country are held in storage, usually because there are insufficient funds and space to show them. Furthermore, very few galleries have created a complete photographic record of their paintings, let alone a comprehensive illustrated catalogue of their collections. In short, what is publicly owned is not publicly accessible.

The Public Catalogue Foundation's Work

Over the last few years the PCF has been photographing these paintings and collating information about each painting. In doing this it has been working closely with collections up and down the country. It expects to complete the digitisation programme by late 2012, when it will have recorded 210,000 paintings from over 2,800 collections.

The PCF's partnership with the BBC is a perfect marriage between a small charity working on behalf of the museum sector and the national public service broadcaster that runs the most popular British website in the world and has enormous audience-engagement experience.

The BBC is building the Your Paintings website at its own expense. Meanwhile, the PCF is responsible for completing the painting photography programme, maintaining the art historical information database, and enhancing the data through the Your Paintings Tagger programme.

The History of Art Department at the University of Glasgow has provided the PCF with considerable Art Historical advice.

Project Outcome

The principal outcome of the partnership with the BBC is the creation of a vibrant and highly searchable website showing the entire collection of publicly owned oil paintings across the United Kingdom.

This is the only website anywhere in the world illustrating a nation's entire painting collection.

The Your Paintings website is free to view and is hosted on bbc.co.uk. The objective of the website is to popularise and democratise art as well as to educate and entertain.

Mayor - Opportunities to Enjoy the Your Paintings Project LocallyThe Redevelopment Project

The redevelopment project has been made possible by £3.2 million funding from Bedford Borough Council, as well as a grant of £959,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £100,000 from the Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, £500,000 from the Wixamtree Trust, £500,000 from The Bedford Charity, £350,000 from the Monument Trust, and £200,000 from Charles Wells Ltd, in addition to funding from a number of other sources.

The Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported 33,900 projects, allocating £4.4billion across the UK, including £290million to nearly 3,000 projects across the East of England. Website: www.hlf.org.uk

 The Harpur Trust

The Harpur Trust has one goal - to help and support the people who live in and around Bedford. Even though we're one of the largest Charities in the UK, everything we do is for the Bedford area. Using the legacy of Sir William Harpur, our founder in 1566, our aims are clear and simple. We're here to inspire and support people in the Borough of Bedford to improve their lives by:

  • providing and promoting education
  • offering help and relief to anyone who is sick, in need, hardship or distress
  • providing recreational facilities with a social welfare purpose

In the last year we gave over £1,900,000 in grants to projects based in and around Bedford. This money helped local organisations and individuals to make a difference to their own lives or those of others in the local area.

To find out more about us visit http://www.harpurtrust.org.uk/

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