Warding off the march of time

Creating digital backups of artworks is a way of preserving them

The digitisation of artworks in the Te Manawa collection has passed another milestoneAll the unglazed large works – more than three hundred of them, living on racks in the collection store – have been successfully photographed. 

They join the thousand works on paper that have been photographed during recent years 

Creating a digital record of art in the collection moves the possibility of online-accessible collection browsing or virtual tours one step closer to reality. 

The work was completed in two stages, each conveniently taking advantage of other changes in the Art Gallery to minimise disruption and handling. A change to the lighting in the collection store meant everything had to be moved out – so small works were photographed during their brief stay in the next room. 

Works larger than one metre demanded more effort from the team thanks to their elaborate composition or sheer mass. One of the last pieces to be documented, Ngataiharuru Taepa’s intricate plywood work “Tane Pupuki” (2014) needed four people to get it onto the gallery wall and off again! 

Again, this task benefited from being able to use the largest gallery in the building, empty for a couple of weeks between exhibitions. 

There are still many works remaining to be documented. The reflections from glass in the frame of the glazed works presents a greater challenge to photographers; some will have to be temporarily de-glazed, while clever lighting and camera techniques will be enough to overcome others. Te Manawa’s sculpture collection tantalisingly offers the possibility of 360 degree photographic coverage. 

Keep an eye out for these images in future Te Manawa projects. Until then, collection artworks are always on display in the Art Gallery, where entry is free of charge. 

Image: photographer David Lupton at work in the Art Gallery