At Yale Center for British Art: Historic frames collection now available online

The Yale Center for British Art has launched an initiative to offer online access to its collection of historical frames. The center — the only U.S. museum to offer detailed frame records online — joins a select group of international institutions that are promoting the importance of frames as distinct collections.

“Frames not only index the taste of past owners of the works of art they surround, but they also link those works back to the interiors in which they lived before they were removed to museums,” where they are seen in entirely different contexts, said Amy Meyers, director of the Yale Center for British Art. “They tell their own stories in terms of the decorative schemes for which they were selected or designed, and as such, are important objects in the history of material culture in their own right.”

The project stems from a survey of the center’s frames undertaken by the renowned frame historian Paul Mitchell. Mitchell began the survey in 2009, categorizing each frame based on style, place of creation, quality, ornamental features, and other defining characteristics. He then worked with the center’s Department of Collections Information and Access to bring his survey online.

Currently, nearly 300 frame records are available in the online collection. Images of each frame may be downloaded free of charge. The center plans to make its entire collection of 2,000 frames available in the coming years, along with high-resolution, publication-quality images for each. Links between each frame and its respective painting, print, or drawing will also be included.

“This new feature will transform scholarship in the field of British art, providing access to what can be thought of as a hidden decorative arts collection, and allowing for a greater appreciation of each object’s visual story,” say the organizers.