The University of Pretoria’s 110 year art collecting tradition is being showcased through five exhibitions on the Google Arts and Culture app.  

The University of Pretoria (UP) is the first university museum in South Africa to have its vast collections displayed on the Google Arts and Culture app as of Monday, August 11, 2021.

“As university museums we have a national and global responsibility to ensure access to all collections as this is just one means to ensuring wider accessibility,” said the head of UP museums, Dr Sian Tiley-NelUP joins 3000 other galleries across the world that showcase their collections on the free, interactive app.

Tiley-Nel told Wits Vuvuzela: “Google Arts offers this as a free service and as a small university museum, we did not have the resources to pivot to online collections without assistance from partners.” This digital shift was necessitated by the ongoing pandemic, which has seen museum doors closed for over a year. Items that would otherwise be in storage are also displayed.

Exhibitions range from the historic Mapungubwe Gold Collection to contemporary artists such as Michael Teffo and Christo Coetzee, prominent from the last century.

Tiley-Nel told Wits Vuvuzela that it takes about a month and a half to create an online exhibition. Museums go through a selection process with the Google Cultural Institute, a non-profit with aims to preserve arts and culture across the world. This is followed by photography and training curators, two costs the university had to shoulder.

“The research data from each item requires to be uploaded in a metadata format, this includes name, title, descriptions, biographies, material types, measurements, provenance, history, copyright etc, including high-resolution images,” Tiley-Nel said of the process.

Mohamed Riyaadh Loonat (22), a history honours student at Wits University, said that this is beneficial to history students looking for archival information but also to those who want to enjoy art and history as entertainment. “I have a keen interest in going to museums, but this was difficult both pre and post-pandemic due to spatial reasons,” Loonat said.

Now Loonat and millions of others can do this from the comfort of their own homes, in front of a phone, tablet or computer screen.

FEATURED IMAGE:  A visitor looks at the current art exhibition at the Wits Art Museum. Photo: Sumaya Mamdoo.