From great works of art by Gainsborough to the ordinary cotton underpants of a Midlands grocer, details of over 700,000 objects in the care of the National Trust go online for the first time today (Friday 16 December).
Now anyone with an interest in historic objects or old curiosities can have virtual access to collections from over 200 historic properties, at www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk
The website also includes details of collections in storage, items that are too fragile to display, or on loan to other museums, making it one of the largest online resources for historic collections in the world.
The National Trust cares for some of the UK’s greatest works of art as well as the personal collections of many famous former owners such as Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter and George Bernard Shaw.
There are artistic treasures from stately houses but also thousands of everyday items from modest homes, mills, cottages and workplaces. All the paraphernalia of life – with many quirky, unusual, retro and bizarre objects – come together to form ‘time capsules’ of life across the centuries.
Some of the fascinating objects now viewable online are:
– Laudanum bottle with remnants of poison at Castle Ward
– Costume made from beetle wings for actress Ellen Terry at Smallhythe Place
– Sewing machine used at the tailor’s shop from the 1970s at the Back to Backs
– Brueghel the Younger’s masterpiece ‘The Procession to Calvary’ at Nostell Priory
– Early anti-ageing ‘Rejuvenating’ machine at Overbecks
– Lavishly furnished Georgian dolls’ house at Uppark
– Photograph from 1912 of the family’s servants at Erddig
– Bible reputed to have been used at the execution of King Charles I at Chastleton House
– Pair of Aertex underpants at Mr Straw’s House
– French 18th century painted sedan chair at Snowshill
The National Trust Collections website is drawn from the Trust’s national inventory – it has taken nearly fifteen years and the work of hundreds of Trust staff, volunteers and contractors to research, catalogue and photograph the collections and develop the database – and work is on-going.
Sarah Staniforth, National Trust Museums and Collections Director, said: “This is such an exciting moment and yet another step forward in bringing our places to life. We are now able to share our collections with everyone online –- and offer a fantastic resource for learning more about them. There are various ways to search through the collections and some of our staff and volunteers have selected their favourites as highlights.”
Philip Claris, National Trust Head of Collections Management, said: “This has been an incredible project for everyone involved but whilst the majority of the Trust’s collections are now online, work is on-going. For instance we are still adding books from the many thousands in our libraries, items from more recently-acquired properties and objects on loan to us.
“People will be able to see changes to the website daily as more is added. We estimate that by the time it has all been included we will have around one million objects online.”
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “This excellent digital resource will bring the National Trust’s important and varied collections to the widest possible public. As a key partner of Montacute House and Beningbrough Hall, and with many of the Gallery’s portraits joining treasures owned by the Trust at other properties, we welcome this initiative which brings free access to these outstanding collections.”
To view the National Trust Collections online: www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk