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National Gallery of London

The National Gallery of London Preserves its Collection with Extensis Portfolio Server

Industry: Heritage & Culture

Product Line: Digital Asset Management

Where they started…

The National Gallery in London houses one of the greatest collections of Western European paintings from 1250 to 1900. The Gallery originated in 1824 when the House of Commons agreed to pay £57,000 for the picture collection of banker John Julius Angerstein. Like many other galleries, museums and heritage sites, The National Gallery has built up a collection of digital images relating not only to its history, but also to its on-going work around the collections it houses. It is the job of the Photography Department to manage these images, providing copies to other departments such as press, new media and design. Previously, this manual process meant that many Gallery Departments were not fully aware of the range of photographic material available to them. Additionally, the process for sharing such assets was both inefficient and time-consuming.


  • Implement an easily searchable database system utilising the legacy SQL database
  • Make all archived images easily accessible to all Gallery Departments via a web browser
  • Present the Photographic Department and its work in a professional manner
  • Allow users to identify the image required prior to contacting the Photographic Department

What they did…

The National Gallery Photographic Department implemented Portfolio Server for their multi-userworkgroup. One major influence in the purchase decision was Portfolio Server’s expandable SQL-Connect module that enabled Portfolio Server to function as an ‘open’ SQL database, making the solution scalable and flexible enough to meet the Galleries’ expanding business needs. The fact that SQL-Connect was simple to deploy and could be connected easily to their existing legacy SQL system was also a great advantage.

Where they landed…

Portfolio Server is an instrumental part of the National Gallery’s image archiving, tracking and distribution system. Once images are processed, they are loaded onto Portfolio Server where relevant keywords and other background information is added directly to the catalogue file as metadata. This information relates to keywords, description, title and photographer as either EXIF or IPTC format. Formerly, all this information was stored on a card index and in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Colin White, Deputy Head of Photography, comments, “Other departments were not aware of the material we had, therefore it was time-consuming to locate images that might interest them. We were emailing literally hundreds of images to them, which is a clunky way of working. Portfolio Server opens up greater dialogue with the other departments that use our work, and, in the long-term, improves the image quality used throughout the organisation.”

“The Return On Investment (ROI) from employing Portfolio Server can be seen in a number of ways,” Richard Bamford, European Business Manager of Extensis explains. “Bottom-line ROI is seen in both general efficiency and Common Knowledge Management.” Bamford continues, “Without Portfolio Server, it’s quite common for companies not to know that certain files exist at all.”

Where they’re headed…

The organisation is also planning to use Portfolio NetPublish to create an easily searchable website for users to conveniently access its image catalogue. White notes, “We initially intend to have one site that can be used to search the entire catalogue online. However, in the future we would like to make more catalogues available online through different sites. The beauty of NetPublish is that it allows unlimited access to unlimited catalogues for all Gallery Departments.” White concludes, “The implementation of Portfolio Server is part of a larger departmental strategy that has seen us halve our running costs in five years. We are in the early stages of discussing the use of Portfolio Server to manage the assets of other departments throughout the Gallery.”