NEWPORT has a wealth of art treasures including work by LS Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer, Dame Laura Knight and Hans Friebusch.

But with space at a premium just five per cent of the gems are on public display.

Now council watchdogs are to look at how to increase public access to the collection which could include virtual viewing.

Councillor Peter Davies suggested the authority's culture and recreation scrutiny forum should examine the issue.

Councillor Davies asked that a review should include the amount in storage and whether some should be sold to pay for ways of improving public access.

Earlier this year, we reported how Newport's Keeper of Art Roger Cucksey and guest curator John Wilson launched the gallery's first ever on-line exhibition, Documenting the City.

Mr Cucksey told the Argus he hoped the council would be able to offer the financial support to continue online archiving.

This in-depth review is likely to consider whether parts of the collection could be digitised and made available on-line.

A final report is not expected to go to cabinet member Councillor Ron Jones until next April.

Newport Museum and Art Gallery has collected evidence of the area's history, culture and environment since 1888.

As well as extensive artworks, the collection includes archaeological treasures, educational material, and information about the natural and social history of the city.

A varied programme of temporary exhibitions is presented by the Art Gallery and there are also permanent displays of decorative art such as the Waite Teapot and Iris Fox collections.

Officers point out in the report that the art "is an important visitor attraction which can make a significant contribution to tourism, thus aiding the economic regeneration of the city".