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Gatsby Cataloguing Project wins 2022 Collections Trust Award

Find out more about the incredible Gatsby Cataloguing Project from our Collections Curator Katharine Malcolm.


Gatsby Cataloguing Project wins 2022 Collections Trust Award

The Sainsbury Centre has received a Highly Commended Award for the Gatsby Cataloguing Project, which freshly examined the Centre’s art collection by taking a more open and inclusive approach, enhancing online catalogue records and setting standards of documentation that can be applied cross-culturally to their rich and diverse collections. The project was made possible by a Gatsby Foundation grant awarded in 2019, and has been developed over the last 3 years, by the Collections team of curators and registrars. 

The Collections Trust helps museums work with the information that connects collections and audiences. Their standards and advice are used around the world to make museum collections accessible. This year’s Collections Trust Annual Award celebrated recent collections-based work relating to their rethinking cataloguing campaign and changes within the Spectrum standard.  

Dr Yano Akiko from University of London, studying Japanese works on paper for cataloguing 

Dr Michael Boyd from Cambridge University, researching ancient Cycladic sculpture for cataloguing 


The cataloguing project aimed to create an innovative facility to encourage and promote ongoing research into one of the most important collections in the UK, after the national holdings. It has provided the opportunity to optimise the online presentation of our collection via the Centre’s website; to produce a comprehensive public online catalogue with new photography; and in addition, offer the user enhanced search capabilities and navigation of the website towards the collection. 

One priority was to ensure the public catalogue would look less like a database and work more intuitively for today’s users, to give a better experience for the general user as well as specialist academic researchers. We determined to offer diversification of voice across our new catalogue entries. We set ourselves the aim of providing the fullest account possible of provenance and the circumstances of how objects came to the Sainsbury Centre. 

Dr Bolaji Owoseni, PhD graduat

Sabo Kpade, MA student, Sainsbury Research Unit 


We commissioned a range of external cataloguers, including curators, art historians, archaeologists, researchers, Indigenous writers and artists. Additionally, the Sainsbury Centre’s curatorial team contributed new writing and content. During the life of the project the importance of Indigenous voices became more apparent, and we were lucky to have the opportunity to include Sainsbury Research Unit MA and PhD student/graduates as part of the cataloguing team:   

My interest in being a part of the cataloguing was motivated by the opportunity to lend my voice and have it documented as a native speaker from the Yoruba region of West Africa for familiar art objects from my region and parts of Africa. The opportunity to learn more about the various characteristics of these art objects (and their importance), from their original provenance to their recent destination, is very intriguing. Being part of the cataloguing team shows inclusiveness of Indigenous voices in (re) writing these stories, which is very heart-warming.  

           – Dr Bolaji Owoseni, Sainsbury Research Unit, PhD graduate cataloguer  

 Contributing to the cataloguing project has been a great opportunity. My hope is that the research and texts will enrich the visitors’ experience of the remarkable Sainsbury Centre Collection and provide wider appreciation of African art.  

         – Sabo Kpade, Sainsbury Research Unit, MA student cataloguer 

Pax Jakupa, visual artist and cataloguer 


Our project offered the opportunity to examine our wider role in the interpretation of objects from a diverse set of cultures. We reviewed our geopolitical terminology and removed colonial-era language from our catalogue to make sure we are respectful of Indigenous concerns and are less Eurocentric. The application of Indigenous object titles and descriptions was encouraged, and use of local spellings and diacritics.  

I am a visual artist from Papua New Guinea and have been painting for the past 20 years and I am currently working on a Masters degree in Melanesians Studies. I was involved in the 2013 Pacific Arts Symposium (PAA) in Vancouver, Canada, after which I gained interest in researching cultural objects from my country. Opportunities are limited in my country for working with museums, so I was very thankful for the opportunity to work on this project. Being able to view and access museum artifacts through the digital catalogue on my phone is an amazing thing and lovely idea. I’m so excited to see the objects with my stories in your collections…so the next generation can see all these things.   

   -Pax Jakupa, visual artist and cataloguer 

We wanted a facility we could build upon, to optimize our collections management practices and to facilitate future collections management projects, integrating standardized data terminology and formats. Working closely with media specialists Cultureshock, we developed a platform that offered enhanced search functionality of the website to optimise search results, and to provide cross-cultural search tools to help users explore the diverse nature of the collection.  

Dancing tomb figures, Tang Dynasty (7th – 10th century AD), Earthenware, China 

Footage of Classical Chinese dance performance relating to ceramic dancing Tang figures  

3D object scans allow users to view objects in the round and in intricate detail:  Caribou antler comb, Tlingit, Northwest Coast, North America, late 18th century.

New photography of 18th century Japanese scroll painting by Maruyama Ōkyo  


A campaign of new photography was initiated with the aim of providing an image of every work in the Sainsbury Centre Collection and making it available online. In addition, further image content was created in the form of 3D scans of sculpture (to digitally view objects in the round), sound recordings and short film-clips of performances related to artworks.  

1958 installation of Draped Reclining Woman, Sainsbury Centre Archive image 

Draped Reclining Woman, Henry Moore, 1957 - 1958, Bronze, England, in situ today

Draped Reclining Woman, Henry Moore, 1957 – 1958, Bronze, England, in situ today


The impact of the project has set the standard in how the extraordinary works of art in the Sainsbury Centre can be empowered to intrigue, inspire and inform a worldwide audience. We have set high standards of documentation that can be applied cross-culturally to the rich and diverse collections that we hold.  

The cataloguing project has underpinned a fundamental change in the museum itself, which is set to have a relaunch in May 2023. With the integration of the Smartify museum app, all the public catalogue records will additionally migrate across to this additional platform, to champion digital interpretation of these new life stories, in the gallery as well as online. 

You can find the new public catalogue on our homepage under the Art & Objects tab, or here:  

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