Google Art Project has put a subset of 17 international museum’s collections with over 1000 works into the cloud for virtual exploration. The roster includes The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Tate Britain & The National Gallery in London, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Google Art Project uses Google’s street view engine to navigate inside museums. In the above picture I am navigating around MOMA. The project creators closed the loop with this application as I was able to find the exit to MOMA and land on W. 54th street in front of the Museum.
Wandering around is pretty fun but there are parts of the museum and works scattered about that for some reason are blurred out. I assume the proper reproduction rights were not available. So if you are planning to trot on over to your favorite obscure piece in your favorite museum prepare yourself to see a blurry rectangle. That said, there are still plenty of works to explore!
In MOMA I navigated over to the Cézannes, notice in the picture above there is a zoom icon overlayed on the picture. Works with this icon have been photographed with a gigapixel camera and can be zoomed in to see the brush stroke detail.
The zoom feature is very cool. Typically you can’t actually get that close to some of the works in these galleries as there is a rope. With the gigapixel zoom you can see the detail down to canvas fibers on some works. Nice!
I backed out and decided to check out the works in the Gemäldegalerie simply out of curiosity. Google Art Project is fun to explore. I ran into one of my favorite Tizian paintings from my days as an undergrad studying art history. This work is not considered to be one of Tizian’s finest but it is my favorite. This work always cracks me up when I see it. It is a painting of an organ player staring at the naked Venus while playing his organ. Aside from the obvious 16th century low brow humor I like how Tizian has balanced the large erect pipes in the upper left of the painting with the small yippety dog in the lower right. If Tizian were still around I would give him a high five.
Double entendre aside, Google has done a really good job integrating their various, browsing, navigation and search engines in this web application. There is an information pane you can pull up that has more information on each work, the artist and the museum you are navigating.
In Tizian’s case it even shows you where he lived and it provides a link to Google Scholar for further research. I wish I had this back when I was an undergrad.
It might also be fun to eventually integrate some of the technology used with Google Images that allow one to search for similar images to trace possible influences and homages of artists through time using some sort of data visualization. Once enough visual data is in the system these types of searches should be very interesting.
The creators of this project have posted more information on this awesome project on the official Google blog. It will be great when a larger subset of works are included in this project as the value of this to academics is immeasurable.