Google’s Art Project Brings the Museum to You

Vintage photo of man standing facing away at the start of an elaborate Versailles hall. A Yank in Versailles / World Telegram & Sun photo by Bert Brandt, 1944. Image courtesy Library of Congress.
Stuck at home in deep thundersnow? Google can help you break the monotony. Yesterday Google launched its new Art Project, which combines its Street View technology controls with inside views—literally—of 17 major art museums from around the world. In a short amount of time, I managed to wander Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, hop the pond to London’s Tate Britain, make a pit stop at the MoMA in NYC and wind up at Museum Kampa in Prague—all without putting on my jacket or buying a plane ticket.

The interface allows users to navigate rooms in each museum using standard point-and-click actions and zoom tools, and uses a new tool called the “trolley” to allow you to move smoothly from one room to the next. Clicking on buttons next to most pieces will pull up a high-quality shot of the artwork, plus notes on the piece’s history and information about the artist.

How does Google Art Project compare as a substitute for seeing the real thing? It might not be for some, but it puts a whole world of art on view for millions of people who might never get a chance to visit these museums in real life. Of course, if you have been lucky to visit one or more in person, a few minutes of virtual wandering will either bring back fond memories or get you yearning to go back again.

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