Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection of more than 630 artworks and artefacts will be a click away by the end of this year.
The museum is building a digital archive of its entire collection, which will be available on its website for visitors to peruse.
From this week, 120 artworks can be viewed online. Along with images of artefacts, paintings or objects, the website will include historical information about the pieces, as well as details on their geography, date and medium.
Some pieces are also accompanied by audio clips used in museum tours. All the information is available in English, Arabic and French.
The online collection contains pieces from the museum’s four wings that take visitors through the ancient world, medieval period, first wave of globalisation and modernity.
Works range from Phoenician sarcophagi from the 5th century and knightly jewellery from the 16th century, to the Orientalist painting of Young Emir Studying to abstract canvases by Piet Mondrian and Cy Twombly.
The process of building the digital archive dates back to February 2019, though the pandemic has caused the museum to accelerate the project and begin sharing artworks online sooner, says Faten Rochdy, head of the resource centre unit at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
When the pandemic caused the museum to shut down from March to June, it gradually began developing its digital initiatives for the public.
However, the online collection is currently not searchable or categorised, and images are not yet optimised for detailed viewing, such as a zoom-in feature.
“We are working on enriching the data, working on artist biographies, implementing tools, filters and hyperlinks to make the data searchable,” Rochdy says.
In this first phase, however, visitors can discover elements of the works that they might not be able to appreciate in the physical displays, such as finer details in smaller artefacts, paintings and manuscripts.
“Through the images, you can see details that you cannot see in person. The online collection also gives access to artworks that are not currently exhibited, such manuscripts and textiles that are light-sensitive. They need to be kept in storage for years after an exhibition, but they can be seen on the website,” she explains.
“We want it to be a visitor resource,” Rochdy continues, adding that guests can have a “first look” online ahead of their trip to the museum. “It can build anticipation after seeing images of the works on the website."
As a young museum – only three years old – Louvre Abu Dhabi is still in the process of building both its collection and its digital archive. “The collections shared online are key for museums around the world. For us, it’s here to stay and will continue,” says Rochdy.
Other ongoing projects at the museum’s research centre unit includes the Bil Arabi initiative, a trilingual thesaurus of art history in English, Arabic and French that can be used as a reference tool for students and academics.
Scenes from Louvre Abu Dhabi's reopening in June
Louvre Abu Dhabi's online collection can be found on its website