UP Museums becomes first university museum in South Africa to bring iconic museum collections online on Google Arts & Culture

Posted on August 11, 2021

The University of Pretoria (UP), partnered with Google Arts & Culture (GAC), announced today that the University of Pretoria Museums’ (UP Museums) collections and five exhibitions can now be viewed online in just a few clicks at Google Arts & Culture. This makes UP Museums the first university museum in South Africa to launch its diverse institutional art and other heritage collections online due to a partnership signed between UP and the Google Cultural Institute.

Thanks to the new virtual platform, users will be able to view over 700 distinct works from the UP Museums. Arts and culture from different parts of the world is celebrated on the platform, including works from the Mapungubwe Collection, 20th century masterpieces by South African artists such as Maggie Loubser, Irma Stern, Jacob Pierneef, and Frans Oerder, and African modernism works which can now be globally shared and accessed. To make experiencing the 110 years of the UP Museum Collections even more convenient, users can explore all the experiences by downloading the Google Culture app.

Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, Head of the UP Museums, said, “This was a natural migration and mutual partnership to pivot the museum collections online, resulting from the harsh impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented closure of museums worldwide. Moreover, as a social response to bring artworks, archives, historical works and other masterpieces, particularly of South African art to the continent and to the world.”

Google Arts & Culture brings together a selection representative of the UP Museums’ diverse and signature collections. Specially curated stories provide a holistic overview of the entire collection, its history and current background. Other stories include themes on South African modernism, Mapungubwe archaeological clay figures, and the meandering unique sculpture route through the iconic landscape at the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield Campus. The first phase of the project began on 29 June 2020 with a signed agreement and curatorial hours of loading of metadata, descriptions, unique high-resolution photographs and rare archival images. The digital content now available on the UP Museum collections would not have been possible without the curatorial direction by Gerard de Kamper, Curator of Museum Collections and Lelani Nicolaisen, Curator Art Exhibitions and Galleries.

Google Arts & Culture makes the treasures, stories and knowledge of over 3 000 cultural institutions from 80 countries available at your fingertips and from your couch. Google’s mission, like UP’s, is to make the world’s information more accessible. The partnership between UP and Google Arts & Culture opens the doorway for more people to explore art, history, and wonders of the world, and the part the University of Pretoria plays in it.

The UP Museums thanked the Google Cultural Institute and the Google Arts & Culture platforms for making this an online reality. “Appreciation goes to Google Arts & Culture for sustaining this long-term partnership, which will continue to bring more South African art online and increase knowledge about the contributions of the collections held, curated and conserved by the University of Pretoria,” Dr Tiley-Nel said.

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