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Digital drawings of old masters

Helvetia is supporting the Kunstmuseum Basel in the digitisation of significant works from the Amerbach Cabinet. In doing so, it is not only creating lasting value, but also enabling new exhibition formats.

5 June 2018, text: Margrith Mermet, video: Focus Format

With the support of Helvetia, the Kunstmuseum Basel is digitising 3,000 drawings by old masters from the 15th to 17th centuries.

With the support of Helvetia, the Kunstmuseum Basel is digitising 3,000 drawings by old masters from the 15th to 17th centuries. In this way the light-sensitive works will not only be saved for future generations: «With this project we are enabling the creation of entirely new exhibition formats,» explains Dietrich von Frank, Head Art Sponsoring at Helvetia.

Exhibition on screens and tablets

The curators have the opportunity to expand their exhibitions at will. By presenting the digital exhibits on screens or tablets, museums can make many more works accessible to their visitors. «In addition to analogue objects on the walls and in display cases, for example, the digitised works also provide a more comprehensive picture of what the museum has to offer.» Works that previously remained in storage because exhibiting them would have burst the scope of an exhibition will now be presented in digital form.

7x10cm – zooming is allowed

A work of art that previously took up over a metre square of wall space can now be presented on 7x10cm. Art connoisseurs can enlarge works, view sections in more detail and thus discover previously unknown details. And works that are extremely light-sensitive can remain under cover of darkness in the archive, because they will be represented by their own digital reproductions in the exhibition.

Quickly and easily available on the internet

Another major advantage of the digitisation of works of art lies in the fact that students, researchers and amateur art enthusiasts can view the works online, without having to travel to Basel to see them. In addition to the photographic recordings of the works, all the other information will be collected in a database: Based on the current analogue inventory cards, an art historian will create a separate data record for each work. In a second step, a scanner makes a digital record of the work. «The major advantage of this database is that anyone interested can find and view the works quickly and easily on our website, without having to undertake a long journey to our museum in Basel,» explains Anita Haldemann, Head of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Kunstmuseum Basel. She is delighted that this project has set the trend for more digitisation in the museum.

The digitisation project in the Kunstmuseum Basel is already the fourth project of this type to be supported by Helvetia. In this way Helvetia is underlining its strong commitment to art and to Basel as a venue. The project was launched in September 2017 and will last three years.