A new open-access digital archive at Thorvaldsens Museum

A new open access digital archive

Kira Kofoed, Mag.art., art historian and scientific researcher at the Thorvaldsens Museum, Denmark, shares her expertise on open access digital archiving

At the Thorvaldsens Museum we have developed an open digital archive on the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). This project will collate Thorvaldsen's correspondence, including all the sculptor's letters, workshop accounts etc., along with ongoing commentary work, research articles and so on.

Apart from letters and workshop accounts, the site also includes poems, articles on Thorvaldsen, lists of artworks, notes, travel permits, recommendations, dedications in books, memos, and many other types of written sources on the sculptor's life and art.

The bulk of the material comprises transcripts of all written primary sources left by Thorvaldsen, and kept today at his museum. More than half of the documents are letters to, from and about the sculptor. They were uncovered in Rome just after his death. As well as the material found in Rome, the archives contain other documents with different provenances.

Since its founding, the Thorvaldsens Museum has strived to expand the amount of written source material on the artist through acquisitions and donations. Throughout the years the museum has also acquired copies or transcripts of other written sources both in Danish and other languages.

The online open access database makes it possible to locate, organize and present a massive amount of known and hitherto unknown information about Thorvaldsen's art and his international network of artists, friends and patrons. The site therefore represents a crucial new tool for a research and documentation on the artist and his output.

The source material is the foundation of a large research project running between 2006 and 2017, the aim of which is to expand our knowledge on Thorvaldsen's works in context. The results of the project are published on the database continually as open access resources, consisting mainly of detailed commentaries on the documents in the archives, and a large repository of related articles.

The commentaries are linked to each document, telling researchers – in a click – which work of art, person, event or place the document refers to. The related articles are elaborating and synthesizing topics occurring in many documents. By uncovering specific characteristics of Thorvaldsen's production, the database seeks to contextualise the Danish sculptor's works in light of contemporary artistic, philosophical or political currents, and his many important personal and professional relationships.

Draft by Thorvaldsen (presumably not before late June 1804), written partly on top of the sketch of Caritas with Three Children, C530r.

Explore the Thorvaldsen database

The new open-access database is accessible at the Thorvaldsens Museum website

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