Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Google Art Project: 'Street View' for Museums Plus Artworks in High Resolution

Today Google announced the launch of Google Art Project, an exciting development for anyone interested in art or art museums. From the Official Google Blog: "You’ll find a selection of super high-resolution images of famous works of art as well as more than a thousand other images, by more than 400 artists—all in one place. And with Street View technology, you can take a virtual tour inside 17 of the world’s most acclaimed art museums."

To get started,  just choose a museum from the home page and then select ‘View Artwork’ or ‘Explore the Museum'. From there you can use the drop-down menus at the upper left of the page to select a museum (box on left) or choose among the artworks within a given museum (box on right). You can virtually explore selected portions of museum spaces in 'Street View' mode with the ‘Explore the Museum' option -- note that the resolution in this mode is not particularly high. But in the ‘View Artwork’ mode you can zoom into lovely detail views, and even enjoy truly magnificent, super-high resolution, gigapixel details among selected images (indicated by a 'plus' symbol on the list of artworks).

Note the 'i' button at the top right of the page, which provides valuable information about the selected museum (Web site, floor plan, Google Maps location, museum history, and more works in the museum) or the selected artwork (such as viewing notes, additional artwork information, artwork history, tags, artist information, more works by the artist, and more works in the museum).

Finally, you can also ‘Create an Artwork Collection,’ where you can save and share specific views and comments on any of the 1000+ artworks included in Google Art Project. Note that FAQs can be found here.

The participating museums currently are:
  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin - Germany
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC - USA
  • The Frick Collection, NYC - USA
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin - Germany
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC - USA
  • MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC - USA
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid - Spain
  • Museo Thyssen - Bornemisza, Madrid - Spain
  • Museum Kampa, Prague - Czech Republic
  • National Gallery, London - UK
  • Palace of Versailles - France
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - The Netherlands
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg - Russia
  • State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow - Russia
  • Tate Britain, London - UK
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence - Italy
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam - The Netherlands

While it current state is impressive, the relatively small number of museums and artworks is immediately obvious. It is exciting to imagine what this could become in time, with more contributions from these and other institutions around the world. While you can't beat viewing artworks in person, it is not possible for most of us to visit all of the museums that pique our interest. Further collaboration between Google and museums will make more cultural objects accessible to many more people, which will ideally inspire more museum visits and overall support for museums.

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