Much-loved FM Courtis Art Collection goes digital

The Bendigo Campus’ FM Courtis Art Collection is being professionally photographed in a digitisation project that’s long been on the wish list.

La Trobe Art Institute public programs coordinator Dr Karen Annett-Thomas says making the collection viewable online means it can continue to be a valuable teaching and learning resource during online classes. Plus, art lovers world-wide will also get to enjoy it.

“Over three days this week we’re hoping to get about 80 per cent of the works photographed,” Karen says.

The collection consists of 324 works by some of Australia’s most famous artists, as well as significant locals. Think Sidney Nolan, Brett Whitely, Grace Cossington-Smith, Norma Bull and Arthur Streeton.

It was started in 1958 by the Bendigo Teachers’ College to give trainee teachers access to culture. Today the resource largely hangs in the Education Building and helps foster in our students an appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of visual art.

“Our ambition is to eventually digitise all of the LAI’s collections and the Courtis Collection is really special,” Karen says.  “It’s a discreet collection that’s all within reach, so we’re proudly using it as a test for the process of digitisation.”

Staff are working with local specialist art photographer Ian Hill, who has worked on many similar projects for public galleries and private artists.

“I’ve been working with the Courtis Collection since 2016, and before that I was around it as a student at La Trobe,” Karen says. “But I’m still surprised by what’s in it.

“Much of it has been in storage, wrapped up, and we’re bringing it out to check the condition of the works, from front to back, get the measurements, and sometimes see them for the first time.

“We’re all familiar with the heroes, the works on display and the big names, but what is surprising is the smaller works, and works on paper, and in amongst that, significant names and significant stories. There are also groups of works by people who were involved with the Bendigo Teachers’ College, so you can get a real sense of their practice.”

Karen says as an online resource, the collection will be of great value to students, researchers and the wider community.

“So many people have come through the teachers’ college over the years and there’s a real sense of ownership and custodianship of the collection, so we want to provide access beyond just the space on the walls,” she says.

The works will be online by the end of the year. The project also includes assessing the condition of the works, addressing any conservation needs, resting some works and re-hanging in time for the 2022 academic year.

One thought on “Much-loved FM Courtis Art Collection goes digital

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  1. Fred Courtis the gentleman collector would certainly appreciate what is happening with the digitisation, however he would not have understood the technicalities. The breadth of the collection will be better appreciated once us interested people are able to view the entire collection.

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