Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012
When Google Art Project launched in January of last year, it gave anyone with a computer access to 17 major museums in nine countries including the US, France, Germany and the UK. The interface was on the clumsy side, unfortunately, making it hard to navigate, and although some stand-out individual pieces were presented in almost microscopic detail, the overall coverage was limited.
Now Google has announced the completion of the second version of Google Art Project. From 1,000 gigapixel ultra-high resolution images of paintings, the database now offers 32,000 images of not just paintings, but photographs, sculptures, textiles, rock art, ancient artifacts and so much more from 151 museums in 40 countries. If you’d like to take a turn through some of those museums and institutions, 46 of them have virtual tours, including the White House, Athens’ Acropolis Museum and the nearest and dearest to my heart, the Musei Capitolini on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.
The interface is vastly improved. You can navigate speedily from collection to collection. If you want to take a virtual tour of the museum, click the yellow man icon in the upper left next to the museum name and the Details button, then navigate just as you would use Street View in Google Maps. If you’d like to browse the artworks instead, just click on the thumbnails in the collection gallery. Click the details button for more information about the piece, including a link to the artwork on the website of the museum. Of course you can also search for individual artworks or artists using the menu in the top left.
They also have a much more user-friendly personal gallery where you can not only save the images in a collection of your own, but also make notes and share them with friends. If you’re in the mood to be surprised, click the Discover button on the left vertical menu (it looks like a light bulb) and Google Art Project will take you on a random tour of its wonders. You can browse it as a gallery or view as a slideshow.
The educational resources are greatly enhanced. Click on the Education link on the menu at the bottom of the screen to get an art historical overview in the Introduction and Look Like an Expert sections. The DIY section offers tips and ideas for ways to use Google Art Project as an educational and creative resource, to create a virtual exhibition of your own unbounded by geographical and financial limits. DIY even connects to 10 other museums’ own proprietary educational databases, like the Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History which I dearly love and have spent many lost weekends perusing.
The Google Art Project YouTube channel has introductory videos about using the site, about the artists and the museums. Here is a trippy preview of some of the incredible museum views and gigapixel artworks:
Here is the Google Street View camera as it records 360 degree views of every public room in the White House: