The UK holds in its galleries and civic buildings over 200,000 oil paintings spanning 600 years of art history – arguably the greatest national collection of its kind in the world. But a staggering 80% of these works are in storage or held behind closed doors, hidden from the very people who own them – the UK public.

But now, through a joint effort by the BBC, The Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) and a range of partners, the entire collection is available online for everyone to enjoy!

Today marks the launch of a month of activities across the UK to celebrate this fact, You can read all about it here.

Although Hitchin and Letchworth Museums are currently closed as we work on the new museum, we will be posting some activities here that you can still take part in using the oil paintings in our collections!

sunflowersPaintings set for local landmarks

Buildings around the UK are to have art projected upon them later to celebrate the completion of a website showing the national collection of oil paintings.

On Wednesday evening our latest acquistion, a painting by William Ratcliffe, called ‘Reflections, Ickleford’, was unveiled in the Council Chamber. The painting shows part of Hyde Mill, a flour mill at Ickleford, which was demolished in the 1930s. It was purchased from the Fine Art Society in Bond Street (where it was on sale as a painting of a pond in Letchworth) with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the V & A, and the local Hertfordshire Heritage Fund. We knew that it was of Ickleford, as we have a photograph of the artist looking at the picture on exhibition in Letchworth Museum in 1954. The picture is shortly going off for glazing, and will be kept at Letchworth until the new museum opens.

Unveiling our most recent acquisition

Unveiling our most recent acquisition, William Ratcliffe’s ‘Reflections, Ickleford’