I just found out about the Google Art Project where you can see The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, for instance, in incredibly high detail. They have over 1000 works from around 17 different museums available on the site. It’s just amazing what Google has done by combining their street view with museums.
I’m not yet sure what this means for museums, and I suspect they don’t really know the full impact of what they have done, yet. This brings up a lot of questions of the value we place on pieces like The Starry Night by Van Gogh. If we can see it like this, do we need to make the trip to the MoMA in NYC?
A lot of the time, people complain that you can’t tell how big something is when you see it online. Now, though, you can go through the museum and see what’s next to The Starry Night and see how big it is, how it compares to paintings around it, the whole gamut. For kids who may never get to travel to these far off or perhaps exclusive museums that house the art of the most famous of the famous artists, this is an incredible tool and ability that is free and educational.
We will see whether schools will take advantage of this amazing ability to see in detail. It would be a shame if they didn’t, and I’m sure teachers will still tell students that it’s not like seeing it in person, which of course it isn’t. But, at least you don’t have a security guard telling you that you’re too close to the painting and to “please step back, ma’am.”
I love that Henri Rousseau’s work, The Sleeping Gypsy, is next to The Starry Night. He was self taught so it amazes me that he is so respected by the people who devoted their lives to their art and spent much of their time learning techniques and schmoozing with their patrons.
CNET said, “You can zoom in to see Van Gogh’s famous brushwork or watch how previously hard-to-see elements of an artwork suddenly become clear–such as the tiny Latin couplet which appears in Hans Holbein the Younger’s, ‘The Merchant Georg Gisze,'” Google said in its blog post.
To capture the experience of actually being at the museums, Google commissioned a new vehicle it’s calling the “trolley.” The vehicle moved around the museums and, like its counterparts on the streets, recorded images used to piece together 360-degree views. More than 385 museum rooms are represented.
Google has also included a “Create an Artwork Collection” feature in Art Project, allowing users to save views of artwork they fancy. They can also add comments to the artwork and share them with others.
Going forward, Google plans to add more museums and works of art. Until then, you should have plenty to keep you busy, with all the many pieces across the supported museums.