Black and white images of architecture from the Conway Library are shown on a brown mount, on a computer screen

News Archive 2020

The Courtauld and Zooniverse launch ‘World Architecture Unlocked’

27 Oct 2020


Today (27 October), The Courtauld is delighted to launch a major crowdsourcing project – World Architecture Unlocked – that will broaden public access to our vast and unique collection of architectural photography in the Conway Library.

World Architecture Unlocked is a collaboration between The Courtauld and Zooniverse – a crowdsourced cataloguing platform governed by the Adler Planetarium, Johns Hopkins University, University of Minnesota, National Maritime Museum, University of Nottingham, Oxford University and Vizzuality. The project expands on The Courtauld’s current volunteering opportunities by offering people around the world the opportunity to get involved with cataloguing the newly digitised Conway Library collection.

Located in the vaults of The Courtauld at Somerset House, the Conway Library is immediately recognisable by the almost 10,000 red boxes that make up the bulk of the collection and spans over 700 metres of shelving. Over the course of the last century, this collection was formed to create a comprehensive visual encyclopaedia of architectural design. It is organised by topic, from architecture and sculpture to manuscripts, contemporary art installations, and stained glass.

Since 2017, a team of 986 dedicated volunteers have spent 26,723 hours organising, cataloguing and photographing nearly one million items in the Conway Library as part of an on-site digitisation project. This initiative is part of Courtauld Connects, our major transformational project part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

In the short term, World Architecture Unlocked  volunteers will be able to explore photographs from the Conway Library collection and get involved with cataloguing the digitised photographs from the comfort of home. In the long term, the metadata transcribed by the volunteers will help to build the search engine which will power The Courtauld’s digitisation project website in the future.

The existing Conway Library volunteer team were involved in the testing period ahead of launching the World Architecture Unlocked project and completed an impressive 15,253 transcriptions in the testing period alone.

The aim of the project is to fulfil our founder Samuel Courtauld’s vision of “Art for All” in two ways: by volunteers gaining the practical skills needed for accessioning, cataloguing and digitising cultural heritage material, and by eventually releasing all the Conway Library images in full resolution to users worldwide.

This project is made possible thanks to the digital platform provided by Zooniverse.

Take part in World Architecture Unlocked


Read more on the Digital Media blog