Frequently Asked Questions:
What is this scheme?
The short version is that in exchange for tax rebates some owners of nationally significant make them available to the public to view. You can arrange to visit them.
And the slightly longer version?
Since the introduction of estate taxes at the end of the 19th century, property considered of such exceptional standard that it should form "part of the national heritage" has been exempt from these kinds of taxes. In the 1970s, Harold Wilson's government ruled that these receiving these exemptions should provide "reasonable access" to exempt works and property. However, in the 1990s this tax relief (estimated to have cost £591m between 1986 and 1991 alone) came under considerable criticism. The register of works was held on paper at a very small number of locations and viewed only a handful of times each year.
The arrival of the internet meant that HMRC could put the database online for anyone to access. If you want to check details of how the scheme works today, take a look here.
If the database is already online, why do we need this site?
The HMRC database is very vague about where things are and has no images. We're trying to make it clearer (without breaching people's confidentiality, obviously) where things are and what they look like.
I have a photo of a tax exempt work. How do I upload it?
That sounds like a lot of effort. Is there another way?
Email us the image with the ID number of the object. We will probably send you an email making sure we can have permission to use the image an open licence.
Where does all this data come from?
This site is based on a scrape of HMRC's works of art database.
Why don't you have an image of a particular object?
HMRC doesn't require owners to provide them with images of artworks. We are collecting images as best we can. If you want to see something, go and visit and ask if you can take a picture.
Why don't you know where an object is?
Many owners - perfectly legitimately - prefer to provide contact details for a representative rather than an address. This means that we may not know where an object can be seen. But if the work is in a place that is regularly open to the public (as opposed to an ordinary home) we are trying to collect and show this information.
Why do some objects say that the artist is unknown when it's right there in the description?
HMRC keeps all the description information about an object in one field. We are trying to extract key details such as the maker but we haven't always been successful.
Does this mean I can visit for free?
No, the owner may levy a charge (many historic houses carry an admission charge).