Edwardians Online: Using expertise in Edwardian visual culture to increase interest and enhance Tate Britain’s open access online scholarly research catalogue

Submitting Institution

Northumbria University Newcastle

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Ysanne Holt was Academic Advisor and Commissioning Editor for Tate's Camden Town Group in Context project, funded through the Getty Foundation's Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative which aims to transform how museums disseminate information about their collections. Holt undertook and commissioned new research into the Group's artworks and their broader contexts. Impacts derived from the project's online catalogue include increased awareness for national and international public and specialists; and improved access to the art and its contexts via a multi-platform open access facility. In addition, the project has influenced the Tate's Digital Strategy and led to the creation of the new post of Digital Editor within Tate's Research Department.

Underpinning research

Holt (employed at Northumbria as Senior Lecturer in 2000 and from 2007 as Reader) is an art historian and acknowledged expert in the field of late nineteenth and early twentieth century British art and broader visual culture. She has edited `Visual Culture in Britain' since 2001. Following the success of their 2008 `Modern Painters' exhibition (curated by Robert Upstone), in September 2009, Holt was contracted by Tate Britain to provide academic leadership for the Camden Town Group (CTG) project. Her role was to develop the scholarly content for a multi-disciplinary investigation into the Group, its aims, history, impact and achievements. The research Holt carried out and commissioned, and the materials identified (early films, photographs and related archival material) to populate the publicly accessible Tate online catalogue, provides a new multi-platform resource for specialists and the wider public not only to view the Group's artworks, but to contextualise it through direct access to a range of contemporary materials and information, supported by expert commentary.

Holt organised a colloquium at Tate, comprising curators and academics with diverse disciplinary perspectives and spent the next two years on research. Between 2009 and 2011, Holt commissioned and edited texts from 24 academics, curators and picture conservators from the UK and USA, as well as from local history organisations. She selected significant historiographic texts for reprinting and contributed her own new essays. The project's distinctiveness comes from combining digital functionality with access to extensive contemporary materials, enabling the user to relate CTG art to its context. To support this, five key themes were established for the project: Modernity and Metropolis; Social Class and Social Type; Gender and Sexuality; Performance and Popular Fiction; and Beyond the City.

In October 2010, Holt's work was presented at two international events, which informed the development of content for the website. First, she delivered a paper at the `Mid-West Annual Conference on British Studies' in Cleveland, Ohio. Second, she was invited to detail the progress of the CTG project, at `The Scholar and the Museum' roundtable discussion at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, for museum and academic staff. The co-ordinator was Anne Helmreich, now Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation.

In May 2012, Holt (with Andrew Stephenson, University of East London) convened the launch event at Tate Britain, entitled `Edwardian Art and its Legacies', with 45 delegates from UK and USA, including the Yale Center for British Art and the Getty Foundation. Selected papers from this event were published in a guest-edited (by Stephenson) issue of `Visual Culture in Britain'.

Following Holt's research foci, the project focused on individual artists' unique engagements with metropolitan modernity, revised dominant narratives about modernism and gave new insights into the ways that particular artworks relate to the transformation of social and cultural life in the rapidly expanding imperial city of London.

References to the research

Holt, Y. (2013) `New York, London, Ireland: Collector John Quinn's Transatlantic Network, c. 1900-1917', Visual Culture in Britain, 14(1), pp55-67. Available here:


Helmreich, A. and Holt, Y. (2010) `Marketing Bohemia: The Chenil Gallery in Chelsea, 1905-1926', Oxford Art Journal, 33(1), pp43-61. Available at:


Holt, Y. (2005) `Eddie Marsh: a Picture-Collector's `Lust for Possession'', Visual Culture in Britain, 6(2), pp125-137. Available from Northumbria University on request.

Holt, Y. (2003) British Artists and the Modernist Landscape. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. Available from Northumbria University on request.

Peters Corbett, D., Holt, Y. and Russell, F. (2002) The Geographies of Englishness: Landscape and the National Past, 1880-1940. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Available from Northumbria University on request.

Holt, Y. (2000) `London Types', The London Journal: A Review of Metropolitan Society Past and Present, 25(1), pp34-51. Available from Northumbria University on request.

Tate received funding for two phases of project development from the Getty Foundation in 2009 and 2011.

Details of the impact

The impacts of the research for the Camden Town Group in Context include enhancing cultural life through increased cultural awareness of national and international audiences (public and specialists); increased access to, and knowledge of, the art and its context via a multi-platform, open access facility; and opportunities for public engagement in developing this and future online art catalogues. The research has also impacted on Tate's Digital Strategy and led to the creation of one new post at the organisation. Holt's underpinning research contribution chimes with the development of new perspectives on Edwardian visual culture and `Edwardianism' in general. It also taps into, and enhances, current public interest in a wider appreciation of `heritage', providing scholarly expertise to underpin both general and specialist access and understanding. This project is part of the wider Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) collaboration between the Getty Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Museum, bringing international prestige and attention to this artistic group and Holt's expertise.

The Tate Camden Town Group in Context website was launched in May 2012 and in the 12 months since then it has received 93,242 page views from 51 referral sites. This comprises 28,439 visits with an average number of pages per visit of 3.12, showing that these are engaged rather than accidental visits. Analysis by country demonstrates international as well as national interest in this resource: UK - 14,387; USA - 5,437; and France - 1,422. Qualitative comments recorded in Tate's Post-Grant Evaluation report to Getty includes, for example, a note from an Assistant Professor, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island: "one of the most useful features of the site is its scholarly depth (historical analysis, archival elements...) and readability. There are few publications that strike this balance as effectively, and no others that do so for the Camden Town Group and this time period... students responded positively to open source material".

Another impact of this project, and one which is directly related to Holt's research contribution, concerns the active public engagement with the Camden Town Group, as a result of the deliberate accessibility of the open access `In Context' website. Since May 2012, the Tate's curatorial staff report communications from visitors to the website offering additional information on the artworks or on related works by members of the Group, along with suggestions for material that might be included in the future. This demonstrates how the website elicited user generated content.

This project, underpinned by Holt's research, expertise and networks of specialists in the field (formed in part through her editorial position in `Visual Culture in Britain'), has directly led to other Camden Town Group projects, as well as influencing the wider practice of online art cataloguing. For instance, a new `Focus' gallery exhibition at Tate Britain of `Drawings by the Camden Town Group' (November 2011 - May 2012) provided a further opportunity for specialists and the wider public to see these works and to raise awareness of the group and its artistic approach in its Edwardian London context. The practice of providing a continuing online access to the art after the physical exhibition was taken down links all visitors to the Camden Town Group in Context webpages (see http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gilman-study-for-leeds-market-t00143) bringing the contextual information and links to an international audience.

Holt's research approach and the software underpinning it are being used to produce a new `In Focus' series of mini-collection research projects, which as Tate's final report on the completion of the CTG project to Getty outlines, they intend to expand over the next three years.

In addition to its enhancement of cultural awareness, the project's success has underscored Tate's commitment to online scholarly publishing and resulted in the creation of a post of Digital Editor within Tate's Research Department (2012).

The project has impacted on policy, being instrumental in shaping Tate's Digital Strategy 2013-2015: "A new model of online publication — manifest in the projects The Camden Town Group in Context ... has transformed collection research. Built as extensions of the online collection (Art and Artists) rather than as `stand-alone' publications, the projects take advantage of the affordances of the digital medium — rich interlinking, multimedia, multiple voices, both linear and nonlinear journeys etc."

In July 2013 Holt contributed to Getty's new social media campaign, `Getty Voices', an OSCI Facebook discussion focused on usage of the Tate Camden Town website and designed to make broader US audiences more aware of OSCI itself. Tate's Google analytics registered a marked increase in visits to the website in mid-July as a result.

Sources to corroborate the impact

The Tate website itself: Ysanne Holt, `The Camden Town Group: Then and Now', in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, May 2012, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/ysanne-holt-the-camden-town-group-then-and-now-r1105679. Accessed: 26 July 2013

Head of Collections Research, Tate Britain (CTG Project Leader). See project acknowledgements http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/acknowledgements-r1105681 Head of Collections can also be contacted to corroborate the impacts claimed.

Senior Program Officer, Getty Foundation, LA can be contacted to corroborate claims. The Senior Program Officer is a peer-reviewer for the project, commissioned contributor, speaker at the closing symposium in May 2012 and involved in developing an overview of the project's success from Getty's perspective.

Assistant Director for Research, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, has attended the symposium and has used the website for research purposes. Extract from letter to Tate Britain from the Assistant Director: "The combination of scholarly research, collaborative work, excellent images, film, audio and digitized resources is an important and path-breaking model for any institution thinking about publishing research on line".

Assistant Professor, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island has provided comments concerning the quality of the site.

Review /recommendation from websites:

Public Catalogue Foundation, Painting in Focus, July 2012,

Tate's Digital Strategy 2013-2015, available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/tate-digital-strategy-2013-15-digital-dimension-everything