War effort artwork: 'It's up to You' (Britannia); artist: Tom Purvis. (Catalogue reference: INF3-129)

13 June 2012

Hundreds of original wartime art works are going online following a partnership between The National Archives and Wikimedia UK. 

Photographed with a digitisation grant from Wikimedia UK, the collection is now freely available on Wikimedia Commons and includes oil paintings, drawings, posters, caricatures and portraits produced as propaganda for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. There are currently over 350 pieces available to view online, but there are plans to digitise the entire collection of almost 2,000 art works.

The collection includes portraits of Allied commanders, members of the Royal Family and leading figures such as Stalin, Churchill and Eisenhower. Also showcased are some of the original works behind famous campaigns such as 'Dig for Victory' and 'Careless talk costs lives', as well as works by artists such as Terence Cuneo and Laura Knight.

The collection also includes unpublished and draft works, many with pencilled comments by the artists or Ministry officials clearly visible.

Jo Pugh, Education Technical Officer at The National Archives, commented: 'The generosity of Wikimedia UK has enabled us to open up the extraordinary work of these, sometimes obscure artists, to the widest possible audience online. They are a sometimes overlooked part of Britain's war effort but their themes resonate down the decades. I hope this is the first step in an ongoing collaboration that will enhance both the Archives' knowledge of our own collections and Wikipedia itself.'

Highlights from the collection

Collaboration with Wikimedia

The National Archives has released these images into the public domain and will work with the Wikimedia community to improve coverage of relevant topics across Wikipedia and other projects. This follows on from a donation of almost 5,000 images to Wikimedia Commons in April as part of the Africa Through a Lens project.

Visit The National Archives' project page on Wikipedia if you are interested in participating.

Through our collaboration with Wikimedia, we have installed QR codes in our on site museum to enable visitors to use their smart phones to find out more about particular exhibits. We are also working with Wikimedia UK to improve online articles relating to The National Archives through the active participation of the Wikimedia community.