I came across the GoogleArtProject (this is a link) just the other day. I know it has been around for a while - since February 2011 in fact - so why I have only just heard of it is beyond me, but given that I didn't know about it, I am hoping that it might be new to some of you too.
The Google Art Project puts a huge number of works of art, from a variety of art museums, literally at your fingertips. This is not at all the same as looking at postcard- or postage-stamp sized reproductions on your screen, this is almost like being up close and personal with the actual paintings or artifacts, possibly even closer than you might be able to get with a frowning museum guard demanding that you step back please! ( I know why they have to say this, but it is such a frustration!)
The brilliant people at Google decided to use their technology to make art in museums more accessible - particularly to those not lucky enough to have great galleries right on their doorstep. They set up a unique collaboration with individual museums around the world, using extraordinary tools like Google Street View to step right inside some of the galleries to have a look around.
You will be able to visit MoMa in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Tate Britain and the National Gallery in London, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Art Gallery of S. Australia, amongst many others. What a treat. There are 151 museums to "visit", in 40 different countries!
As of 30th October 2012, Google say that 29 new art organisations from 14 countries have agreed to bring their collections on line, bumping the total number of treasures you can view via Google to more than 35,000. The most notable new addition this year is 139 works of art from the White House.
1. ZOOM IN, TO SEE BRUSHSTROKE DETAILS.
The level of detail it is possible to see by zooming in, is quite extraordinary. You can almost feel the brushstrokes as you look at them. In some instances, the artworks were photographed using "gigapixel" photo-capturing technology, which provides around 1000 times more detail than your average digital camera. This is not true of every painting, just certain paintings, but when you do find the images photographed in this way, the level of detail is mind-boggling. The zoom feature allows viewers to get inside cracks in the parchment and other details not normally visible to the naked eye.
|Degas Swaying Dancer normal view|
|zooming in......remember, this will be the full screen on your computer|
2. USE STREET VIEW TO STEP INSIDE A GALLERY
Google's Street View team designed a brand-new vehicle called the "Trolley" to take 360 degree images of the interiors of certain galleries, which were then stitched together enabling smooth navigation of rooms within the museums. There is also a clickable feature so you can jump from being inside a museum one moment, to viewing a particular artwork the next. There are info panels which give you information about an artwork, direct you to more works by that artist, and send you to see related YouTube vids.
|Interior of MoMa|
3. CREATE YOUR OWN COLLECTION
With this feature, you can save specific views of any of the artworks, and build your own personalised collection. You can add comments to each image, and you can share the entire collection with your friends and family. More than 300,000 users have created their own online galleries to date.
4. COMPARE ARTWORKS
There is a compare button on the toolbar to the left of each painting, which allows you to examine two pieces of art side by side. You can - apparently - see how an artist's style has evolved over time, you can connect trends across cultures, or delve deeply into two parts of the same work. This could be an amazing educational tool....if you can get it to work. I couldn't !! If anyone else can, perhaps you can tell me what I might have been doing wrong! I got the "drag it here" pictures, but nothing would drag. No "help" guide either....a gap I think...Google team, please note. As far as I could see, we are expected to find our own way intuitively around the site. This may be OK for some, but I still feel a "help" guide would be welcomed by many.
You might enjoy these YouTube overviews:(click on the links)
How to use the site: this was a bit fast for me. You might find it useful tho.
Behind the scenes - 4 fascinating speeded-up minutes which show the Google team at work all over the world. Again, a bit fast for my poor eyes, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
and another here Interviews as well as shots of the team at work. This one is a bit slower and easier to cope with!
For educational art projects, this site must be invaluable. For entertainment from your armchair, it is pretty unbeatable if you love art. Although I do feel that nothing quite replaces the actual experience of standing in front of a painting and drinking it in, I am realistic enough to know that I may never get the chance to visit some of these wonderful museums and see the artworks for myself, so this is a darn good second best!