Google Unveils Art Project

February 2, 2011

Yesterday, on the official Google blog, the company announced its new Art Project, which uses its “Street View” technology to bring over 1,000 art works from 17 world-class museums to your Web browser. The participating museums are (in no particular order):

  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • The Frick Collection, New York City
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
  • The Freer Gallery, Washington DC
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin
  • The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence
  • Palace of Versailles, Versailles
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
  • National Gallery, London
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
  • Tate Britain, London
  • Museum Kampa, Prague
  • Museo Thyssen-Bomemisza, Madrid

Each of the museums has selected one work to be photographed in very high resolution (averaging about 7 gigapixels); you can zoom in to see brush strokes and other fine detail.  The other works are at lower resolution, but still very well reproduced.  You can also “stroll” virtually through the galleries, and get at least a glimpse of many other great works.  Google captured the images using the same type of mobile camera technology used to create Street View.

… the Street View team designed a brand-new vehicle called the “trolley” to take 360-degree images of the interior of selected galleries. These were then stitched together and mapped to their location, enabling smooth navigation of more than 385 rooms within the museums.   We also created a new clickable annotation feature, so you can jump from being inside a museum one moment to viewing a particular artwork the next.

Not all of the images from this “tour” view are of especially good quality, but it is nonetheless an impressive accomplishment.  If one were contemplating a visit to one of these museums, the tour could be a very useful tool for planning one’s route.  It would also provide an opportunity for at least a glimpse of some works that one might otherwise miss.  The Google project team says that they hope to add more works, and more museums, in the future.

I’ve had the great good fortune to be able to visit 11 of these museums in person, but it is still great fun to be able to go back and refresh that experience.  I hope it will motivate some people to explore some of the collections if they can.  And it is really a great gift to the large number of people who would find it difficult, for reasons of geography, economics, or whatever, to visit even one of them.  Google deserves to be commended for creating a valuable cultural resource.

Wired also has an article on this project.

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