National Trust to open up access to its nationwide art collection

It is a vast art collection which is estimated to be worth more than £400 million but is scattered around dozens of sites all over the country.

The National Trust for Scotland will spend around 18 months creating a comprehensive record of its entire art collection.
The National Trust for Scotland will spend around 18 months creating a comprehensive record of its entire art collection.

Now Scotland’s biggest conservation charity is to start work to open up access to more than 100,000 historic treasures.

Every work of art and artefact in the castles, palaces, historic houses and attractions it is responsible for will be fully catalogued for the first time by the National Trust for Scotland.

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The £1.3 million initiative, Project Reveal, is expected to raise awareness of the art collections held at Fyvie Castle, in Aberdeenshire, Falkland Palace in Fife and Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran.

Some objects are likely to be included in major exhibitions and even travel overseas once the 18-month project has been completed by a 26-strong team.

It is hoped Project Reveal – which will see every item held in 47 different sites photographed – will uncover previously unknown treasures in the trust’s vast estate.

NTS says the trawl of its entire estate will help address significant “inconsistencies and gaps” in its current records.

Project leaders believe it will also help improve levels of knowledge and expertise on the significance of the works in NTS’s care and “their place in Scotland’s history.”

Susanna Hillhouse, NTS collections manager, said the long-term aspiration with the “clean sweep” of its sites was to ensure the full collection was available to inspect online.

She added: “A lot of museum organisations have very good catalogues of their collections, but where it often falls down is how accessible that is to other people and how good the photographs are.

“My philosophy with this project has been that if we’re going to do this at all then we should only do it once, and to such a high quality, that it never has to be repeated.

“We have a centrally-held registry of acquisitions, bequests, gifts, donations and loans, but sometimes there is very scant information or not even a photograph.

“There will be rich information stored in individual properties that is not available centrally, which is a key part of the project. Research may have been done by staff or interested volunteers.

“There may be some cupboards with stuff in them that we have not catalogued. Part of the project will be to reveal the true scale of the collection for the first time. We will finally be able to see how big it is.

“Everybody is hoping we will find hidden treasures - but we will almost certainly shed new light on things that we own even if we don’t .”