Why visualise the Tate’s collection dataset?
The Tate is the UK’s largest art institution. The free and open release of Tate’s collection data shows just how far open data has come in the last decade, and makes a major resource available for study. This resource allows us to follow two lines of investigation.
The first is into the history of art, using the Tate’s collection as a model of art in general, particularly of British art. The Tate’s collection data describes the form, content, attribution and dates of a sample of art from the past several hundred years. This is a history of art, and as long as we place it in its historical context it can be a useful one.
The second is institutional critique, to analyse the Tate’s collection and contrast it with other collections and with other models of the history of art (verbal, data-based or otherwise). Rather than allowing or controlling for the historical context of the data this makes recovering and examining that context the focus.
It’s possible to succeed or fail at each, and neither requires taking the claims of Museums to represent history or of data to represent reality at face value or in a vacuum. Data visualisation and statistical analysis are ways of dealing with datasets that would take a human reader many years to examine. They are forms of rhetoric, but they are also useful tools.
With suitable modesty of aims and suitable reflection on the historical and political contexts which have given rise to our tools and materials, let us begin…
You can see the results here:
name gender dates Bateman, James : 2 : 112 dates not known: 59 Doyle, John : 2 Female: 521 born 1967 : 42 Hone, Nathaniel: 2 Male :2894 born 1936 : 38 Peri, Peter : 2 born 1930 : 36 Stokes, Adrian : 2 born 1938 : 36 Wilson, Richard: 2 born 1941 : 34 (Other) :3515 (Other) :3282 yearOfBirth yearOfDeath placeOfBirth Min. :1497 Min. :1543 : 491 1st Qu.:1855 1st Qu.:1874 London, United Kingdom : 446 Median :1910 Median :1944 Paris, France : 57 Mean :1887 Mean :1920 Edinburgh, United Kingdom: 47 3rd Qu.:1941 3rd Qu.:1982 New York, United States : 43 Max. :2004 Max. :2013 Glasgow, United Kingdom : 35 NA's :57 NA's :1309 (Other) :2408 placeOfDeath :2079 London, United Kingdom : 442 Paris, France : 82 New York, United States : 45 Roma, Italia : 22 Edinburgh, United Kingdom: 18 (Other) : 839
You can find details for how to get the source code on those pages.