The Royal College of Art is set to put two of its most important collections online. It will be available to the general public through a new digitisation project which will be accessible online.It will consist of Student portfolio work and Graduate exhibitions. It will be taken from slides currently held in the RCA library files.
The RCA Student Work is a rare collection, containing over 30,000 slides of student work, which dates back to the 1960s and includes early work by notable College alumni including David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Ridley Scott and Thomas Heatherwick. A comprehensive and unique resource, it provides insight into the early creative processes of some of Britain’s best-known artists and designers, usually captured as they complete their postgraduate studies with installation shots from students’ degree shows.
The nature of the collection – comprised mainly of 35mm slides and usually locked in filing cabinets in the RCA library – has meant that many of these images have never been published. Now however, a three-year scanning project has resulted in over 5,000 of the most notable images from the collection being made publicly available for the first time when the online resource goes live on May 5, 2011.
The earliest slides (1960-1978) represent ad hoc attempts by individual departments to record their students’ work. Fashion and Textiles are especially well represented with images of the work of Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes among many others. However, from 1979, at the instigation of Christopher Frayling, then Professor of General Studies, Jan Murton, slide curator, and photographer Barry Marsden, the Royal College of Art degree show was comprehensively photographed and catalogued across all departments for the first time. The approach continues to this day, although slides were replaced with digital photography in 2003.
Notable alumni whose work is represented in this selection include: David Hockney, Zandra Rhodes, Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin, Julian Macdonald, Philip Treacy, Orla Kiely, Harold Offeh and Thomas Heatherwick. These images are a representative sample of the entire collection 1960-2002 and all have been scanned from the original 35mm slides. Senior tutors from each department worked with the Special Collections Manager to identify key students’ work. Once a student was selected, every available slide of their work was digitised to provide a comprehensive picture of their work.
In addition to the Record of Student Work, over a thousand works from the Royal College of Art Collection of Paintings have been digitised and are also being made available through VADS. The Royal College of Art Collection is an invaluable resource of works that represent significant developments in British painting from the middle years of the 20th century to the present. The collection is made up of works donated by Painting graduates and staff. Examples include works by: Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash, John Piper, Frank Auerbach, John Minton, Peter Blake, David Hockney, Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin, Dinos Chapman and Sophie von Hellermann.
Dr Paul Thompson, Rector of the Royal College of Art said: “These are indeed remarkable resources. Those selected from the Record of Student Work have been chosen not only for their subsequent eminence and reputation, but also for embodying particular trends, or producing especially idiosyncratic or revealing work. In both collections, the works have considerable research value and represent over half a century of work here at the RCA”
Neil Parkinson, Special Collections Manager added: “The College believes in making the images available as widely as possible on a non-commercial basis for the purposes of learning, teaching and research. The Visual Arts Data Service (VADS), which collates images from the HE sector for educational use, shares this aim, which makes them a natural partner for delivery of our image collections to the widest possible audience.”
Photo: © ArtLyst 2010