Google Art Project Brings Museums of the World to a Screen Near You
Dubbed a “Street view for museums”, Google unveiled its latest innovation this week with “Art Project” (www.googleartproject.com). The interface, born out of Google’s policy of allocating 20% of employees’ time to innovation, allows users to explore miraculously tourist-free museums and to discover the major masterpieces of 17 international institutions.
Anyone can tell you how easy it is to find images of well-known paintings through a Google Images search, but the Art Project offers a lot more than snapshots. Using a “gigapixel process” to capture super high-resolution pictures (up to a whopping 14 billion pixels), the site allows viewers to zoom right in on selected paintings, to study brush strokes and artists’ techniques up close, much like you would want to do in a museum, in the presence of the real object.
So far, the website offers access to some of the world’s most important collections, including, amongst others, the Uffizi (Florence) the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam) the Tate Britain and National Gallery (London), the Met and the MoMA (New York). The Louvre (Paris) and the Prado (Madrid) are conspicuous in their absence but the project is set to expand if it proves to be a success.
Questions of new technologies and digitalization have infiltrated modern museology in recent years, as musuems and galleries try to find ways of harnessing the virtual possibilities of the internet. Does Google’s Art Project spell the end of visits to actual museums? Not according to Julian Raby, director of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, quoted in the Washington Post, “Far from eliminating the necessity of seeing artworks in person, Art Project deepens our desire to go in search of the real thing.”
Indeed, despite the detail of the gigapixel, many specialists, scholars and visitors will still want to see the three-dimensional object rather than an image. This is something Google can’t do yet, but of course, they’re working on it.“I want to find the technology to capture three-dimensional art such as Michelangelo’s David.” said Amit Sood, founder and head of Art Project, “It’s not going to be easy but these are the kinds of things the we hope to explore.”
Check it out for yourselves here.
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