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Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage

Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage is a 3-year project led by Dr susan pui san lok, UAL Professor of Contemporary Art and Director of the Decolonising Arts Institute. Running from November 2021 to January 2025, the work is being carried out by an interdisciplinary team of colleagues from UAL Decolonising Arts Institute and  UAL Creative Computing Institute, working closely with Tate and a further 15 national and international collection and archive partners.

Transforming Collections is 1 of 5 ‘Discovery Projects’ and part of the 5-year Towards a National Collection (TaNC) programme. Funded by UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, Towards a National Collection is supporting research that seeks to address the barriers that exist within and between the UK’s cultural heritage collections, with the aim of opening them up to new research opportunities and encouraging the public to explore them in new ways.

A side profile photo of a young boy wearing a helmet
Larry Achiampong Relic 2 4K colour video with stereo sound 2019 © The Artist. Courtesy of Larry Achiampong & Copperfield London. Image courtesy of British Council Collection


Transforming Collections is underpinned by the belief that a ‘national collection’ cannot be imagined without addressing structural inequalities and systemic biases in the arts. It sets out to engage with the contentious histories imbued in collection objects and their interpretative material and collection data, to reveal the sometimes uncomfortable stories that collections tell.

The project combines critical art historical and museological research with participatory interactive machine learning design to surface suppressed histories, amplify marginalised voices and re-evaluate artists and artworks ignored or sidelined by dominant narratives.

Looking at a range of public art collections and archives, a diverse team of art historians and museum professionals are working closely with creative computing technologists to develop a usable, adaptable interactive machine learning (IML) tool to support critical analyses of collections. This collaborative iterative process aims to ensure the technology is shaped to serve the research needed to challenge, complicate and enrich existing collections data.

The project will deliver:

  • Partial digitisation of iniva’s artists archive, towards an eventual public research resource
  • An international conference in partnership with Van Abbemuseum, NL
  • Novel adaptable interactive ML software for dissemination across partners and the GLAM sector
  • Critical and interdisciplinary case studies (conference papers, journal articles, book chapters)
  • An edited publication showcasing the project and research
  • Artwork commissions developed by four artists undertaking practice research residencies
  • Selected artists and artworks showcased online with Art UK
  • A week-long public programme curated with Tate Learning

Read the news stories so far at the links below for more information on the research.

Project team

Principal Investigator



AI Software Development Engineers

  • Kathryn Webb
  • Polo Sologub

Practice Researchers in Residence

  • Evan Ifekoya
  • Christina Peake
  • Erika Tan
  • Yu-Chen Wang

iniva Archivist

  • Kaitlene Koranteng

Public Programme Coordinator

  • Ariel Haviland

Project and Partnerships Manager

Project Administrator

You can contact us at

Project partners and collaborating organisations

AHCR Towards a National Collection logo


  • People stood looking at an instillation with various screens and colours
    Yu-Chen Wang, 2020-2022, 'If there is a place I haven't been to', installation view at Le lieu unique, Nantes (2022) and MoCA Taipei (2020).

    Announcing the Practice Researchers in Residence

    Four artist researchers have been selected to undertake a 15-month virtual practice-based research residency as part of the Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage project.

  • A photo of a gallery space. An exhibition on the wall reads
    Stephanie Dinkins, On Love and Data (installation view), Stamps Gallery. Michigan, 2021

    Transforming Collections, Rewinding Internationalism at the Van Abbemuseum

    The Transforming Collections, Rewinding Internationalism conference aims to bring artistic, curatorial, art historical and museological practices into critical dialogue with machine learning development.

  • A corridor with both walls covered with artworks and the centre end wall has a digital display.
    Upper Gallery, Workshop block, London College of Communication, UAL. Photo by Ideal Insight

    Initial Project Report

    The Transforming Collections project team have published their first report, documenting the approach and first year of activity on the Towards a National Collection (TaNC) Discovery Project.