UCL News


UCL PhD student founds USEUM - the "Wikipedia of Art"

22 October 2015

UCL PhD student Foteini Valeonti has founded USEUM - the “Wikipedia of Art” org/" target="_self">USEUM, a digital museum exhibiting more than 30,000 artworks by 4,000 artists from 100 countries around the world, has been established by UCL PhD student Foteini Valeonti (UCL Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and UCL Digital Humanities).

The collection spans everything from famous classic masterpieces to contemporary artists from around the world. USEUM, a crowd-sourced art gallery being built by user contributions, is aimed at both artists and art-lovers. Artists, including students from UCL's Slade School of Fine Art, who paint, draw, or illustrate, can promote their work on the platform reaching out to thousands of dedicated art lovers. They also have the option to profit from the USEUM Shop selling premium quality prints and products worldwide in a matter of days.

In turn, every user of USEUM is not just a content consumer but an active content creator, having the ability to contribute paintings and help expand USEUM's collection.

Gap in the market

The idea for the digital museum came about as a result of Foteini's PhD research. She explains, "When it came time to pick the subject of my doctoral project, I realised that there was a gap in the market for a platform that specialises in storing, structuring and providing easy access to information and knowledge relating to art and in particular painting, drawing and illustration.

"I did some research and thought there was a chance I could develop such an online platform dedicated to art through crowdsourcing. It had never been done before, and so I suggested to my first supervisor Professor Andrew Hudson-Smith that I would like to develop "The Wikipedia of Art" and he was very supportive of the idea and it went from there."

Foteini's main aim with USEUM is to make art accessible to the widest audience possible. Incorporating "use" in the word of USEUM, she wanted to make a statement that art is not there just to be seen, but also to be used, which is a synonym of "being accessible" according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Through the platform any artwork can be sent as a free e-card, or it can be easily shared via social media and the team is working on adding more features towards this way.

Help from UCL

There has been strong support for USEUM from the UCL community. Foteini said, "From Professor Andrew Hudson-Smith, who encouraged my idea early on, to UCL CASA who contributed financially to the launch event of the start-up company, the support I have received has helped to make my idea a reality. UCL Advances also helped me incorporate the company and provided advice on the early stages of the start-up."

As a successful entrepreneur and UCL student, Foteini is encouraging other UCL students to go down the entrepreneurial route while at university. She said, "UCL really supports students with an entrepreneurial vision, so I would encourage current students who have a passion to pursue it, whether it's an off-line business, an online platform or an app. If it works out, it's great because you build your vision and could potentially create jobs and opportunities for others. If it doesn't work out, then you will still have gained knowledge and skills that prospective employers will really value."

USEUM is also available on the AppStore for iPhone and iPad.

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