AS shoppers bustle across John Frost Square and cars weave their way through Newport's maze of roadworks, few can suspect what artistic treasures are close at hand.

Newport's Museum and Art Gallery houses not only a host of paintings by local artists, but also numerous works from major figures in the art world.

Paintings by Sir Kyffin Williams, LS Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer, Augustus John and Dame Laura Knight are among the collection's gems.

Many of these big names were accumulated in the 1920s and 30s, when councillors would visit London's Royal Academy, bringing popular works back to the city, to enhance its status and reputation.

"It's a bit like someone coming back with a Damian Hirst nowadays," jokes Mr Cucksey, Keeper of Art at the gallery.

But as with any gallery, space is at a premium.

Just five per cent of the city's museum artefacts and artworks are on public display.

This means many such works are seen only by those in the know, who make appointments to view them.

However, the way the public accesses the collection could be about to change forever, if an exciting new venture by Mr Cucksey and guest curator John Wilson is allowed to develop.

They are launching the gallery's first ever online version of an exhibition, "Documenting the City" on May 11. It can be accessed through the Newport City Council website or via This labour of love includes 200 artworks, and a further 400 photos and images of public art.

It has taken them 18 months to put together, including many hours of their personal time.

Long-term, this now opens up the possibility of creating an online catalogue of the collection, allowing a wider public than ever before to access this tremendous local resource, not least schools, art students and young people.

But with some 3,800 items in Newport's fine arts collection, this initial project is the tip of the iceberg.

Mr Cucksey now hopes the council will be able to offer the venture financial support to carry on the online archiving.

"In a way, it will be my legacy," he said.