Open Inheritance Art has transformed a public HMRC database of 36,000 national heritage tax-exempt artworks into a searchable platform for the public to get closer to Britain’s most prized cultural assets. Here’s how Thwaites Communications executed a public awareness campaign to drive engagement with the platform and featured artworks.

Three Children with Dog/Two Sisters and a Brother of the Artist is part of a collection owned by Lord Methuen at Corsham Court in Wiltshire and painted by Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian renaissance painter whose paintings inspired many women to pursue high-profile painting careers. Image source: Wikimedia ID: 114986

Building awareness of a publicly funded artworks available to the public

Open Inheritance Art, funded by the Open Data Institute (ODI) Showcase, came about after Jo Pugh discovered HMRC’s public database and realised there was little awareness of these quality artworks made available for public visitation under the HMRC’s Conditional Exemption Incentive Scheme. The collection of artworks “represent one of the largest ‘secret’ collections in the country”, according to historian and broadcaster Dr Hannah Grieg and taxpayers were not gaining true value from the scheme that costs over £1bn in tax sacrifice.

These privately owned artworks are given inheritance and capital gains tax relief if they meet the criteria of ‘outstanding beauty, historical or scientific interest’, providing the inherited owners maintain the artworks, keep them in the UK and, most crucially to this project, make them available for the public to visit. However, HMRC had not actively promoted the database to the public, nor incentivised owners to increase accessibility.

We developed a narrative with messaging that positioned Open Inheritance Art as finally bringing these masterpieces to the fore with the aim to improve access to art, increase public engagement and generate a better return on investment for taxpayers. HMRC had digitised the database but it was not being used to its full potential and thanks to the Open Inheritance Art team producing better quality open data the database is now more accessible to the public.

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