Monday, July 6, 2009

The Pre-Raphaelites Brought to Life at

The Birmingham Museum of Art (which houses the largest public collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art) has just unveiled their new website,, which promises to offer the most intimate experience of the Pre-Raphaelites work that can be achieved outside of visiting the museum.

The website uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, which allows the viewer to expand the artworks as much as possible while maintaining the integrity of the image. It is a spectacular tool, and I can't wait to see more museums adopt this method of cataloguing the works in their collections.

I used Silverlight to take a closer look at Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Beata Beatrix, and I have to admit it was an extraordinary experience. The detail is incredible! I have only had the opportunity to view a few Pre-Raphaelite artworks in person, and this technology does allow you to get much closer to the work than they would ever let you get in person. (Even more than in France, where they are extremely permissive of museum guests getting quite close to the paintings!).

In addition to allowing you to see the finest details of many of the works in their collection, the website also points you to related works. In the case of Beata Beatrix, this leads you to a number of sketches of the work. They also seem to offer more detailsa about the works than other museum websites do, and if you register for the website, you can even discuss the paintings with other art fans online.

I originally heard about this project thanks to an email from the Communications Officer for Environment & Culture at the Birmingham City Council. I am so glad they emailed me and that the Council is getting the word out about this great resource! I can see why the Birmingham City Council is quite proud of this site. It really offers a unique opportunity for art lovers across the globe to see these works "up close and personal" and I think the site will generate a lot of tourism once people see what the museum has to offer.

Of course, nothing can replace the experience of seeing these works in person, but this new website does get awfully close. And for those of you planning to visit Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, I strongly urge you to visit this website first. If there are any artworks you are hoping to see in person, you can actually request a viewing through the website! This is an amazing service. I'm used to having to write to museums, but this tool makes the entire process so much easier (plus it makes it seem like they actually want to let you see the works!). This is especially important to do if there are any lesser-known sketches that you would like to see in person, as these might be in storage at the time of your visit. Again, I can't possible stress enough what a great resource this is!

Kudos to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for these great tools. It's so great to see museums putting their catalogue online and taking advantage of new technology that compliments, rather than detracts from, the artwork. I am a firm believer that giving public access to artwork generates a tremendous amount of interest. I hope this great site makes a new generation fall in love with the work of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Image courtesy Birmingham Museum of Art.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh Boy!
Thanks so much for alerting me to this! I am off to play!

Hope you are weathering the summer in fine form!

Margaret said...

I hope you have fun on the site! I try not to be too ridiculously glowing in my praise, but I was pretty impressed with what they've done.

Oh, and yes, the weather is finally beautiful here in Edmonton! I'm really enjoying the fresh air

Hermes said...

It's really good isn't it and I love the educational section. Well done to them.

Margaret said...

Yes, the educational section is great. I hope more museums follow suit!

Hels said...

Hi Margaret
I realise you were talking about a specific tool, not about The Birmingham Museum of Art in general.

However I wonder why I didn't know that the Birmingham Museum housed a very large collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art. I lived for a few years in Britain and have been on many art-crawls across Britain since returning to Australia - but London, Edinburgh and Cambridge etc seem to have had more pull.

Would you say the Birmingham is one of your favourite art galleries anywhere? See


Tracy said...

Very exciting...I'm off to go see--thanks for the tip, Margaret! :o)

Dom Murphy said...

Thanks for this fantastic review of the site we built. Big smiles all round from us at

Margaret said...

Thanks, Dom--you guys really did a great job.

Vivian said...

Hi Margaret!
About quilting: you start with baby quilts!It is a wonderful de-stressing activy.
About Edmonton: hope you didn't get blown away, you had quite a storm!
About Art: The Vancouver Art Gallery is now showing The Golden Age of Dutch Painting with paintings on loan from the Dutch museums. Rembrant and Vermeer with many less well known artists. Their use of colour values to create light is truley amazing!