For 30 years, a small team individually catalogued one of the world’s greatest collections of works on paper.
In April 2021, the last of the two million prints was described and measured, and its production date and the names of the printmakers, designers and publishers added to the database. That meant that, for the first time, the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings’ astonishing collection of 500,000 records became available to a global audience on the British Museum’s Collection online. You can now search by artist or to browse the collection, simply search for ‘print’ or ‘drawing’ and filter your search from there.
Spanning 600 years, the collection of the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings includes holdings by the greatest graphic artists, from Dürer to Rembrandt and from Michelangelo to Picasso. The completion of the project to digitize the collection marked an extraordinary milestone in the study of prints and drawings.
This exhibition celebrated the completion of the catalogue and showcased the extraordinary variety of printmaking which, until the popularization of photography in the mid-1800s, was the only visual means of mass communication. Subject matters ranged from new fashions from Paris to a Cherokee delegation visiting Georgian London, while unusual formats of prints on view included toys, postcards and fans, highlighting the myriad applications and functions of the printed image.