Google employees are famously allowed to use up to 20% of their company time to pursue special projects not related to what they normally do at Google. That’s about one day per week. Art Project is one such initiative. It makes use of Google technology to help museums make their art more accesible, and not only to people who already visit museums or specialists, but to an unimaginable number of people who otherwise might never have the opportunity to travel or visit and see the real museums. Think people with physical disabilities, children in some forgotten little village somewhere in Africa, etc.
With Art Project you have more than 1,000 works of art at your fingertips. Some of the works were photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or “gigapixel” photo-capturing technology. Each of these images contains around 7 billion pixels (around 1,000 times more detailed than your average digital camera) and a specially-built “microscope view” uses Picasa to deliver these images at amazingly high resolution. And to enable you to also “visit” the museums, a Google team had to build a special vehicle called the “trolley”, to take 360º images of the galleries, which were then stitched together and mapped to their location, permitting smooth navigation of almost 400 rooms. In other words, Street View, but indoors.
You can visit 17 of the world’s most famous art museums, including 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 and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Each museum was able to chose the number of galleries, artwork and information they wanted to include.
With the “Create an Artwork Collection” feature, you can save specific views of any of the artworks and build your own personalized collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends, family or on the web.
(To see the original article, published in Jan 2011, in PDF: Google Art Project)