Google announced today in a launch ceremony held at the Musee D’Orsay that it has expanded the Google Art Project’s online access to museums and artworks. The project is expanding upon its previous 1,000 images of works in 17 museums in 9 countries to more than 30,000 images from the collections of 151 museums in 40 countries.
The Google Art Project launched February 2011 offering virtual tours of museums and high resolution images of individual works. The project is part of Google’s general mission to offer universal access to the world’s information by pioneering robust methods of capture and processing, then employing them on a massive scale.
The Google art project repurposes the 360 degree panoramic capture technology of Google Street View in order to create virtual museum tours. These tours are paired with high resolution images and the selected use of the “gigapixel” image, allowing Google to offer their users a museum experience that ranges from an approximated experience of the museum space to an enhanced examination of individual pieces, creating an online museum experience that offers breadth and depth of exploration.
As is their tendency, Google has responded to skeptics’ claims that online simulations of analog cultural resources will inevitably fall short by focusing on the ways in which digitization creates unprecedented access to analog resources. The gigapixel image – now employed on forty six individual works in the Google art collection – is one such technology. The gigapixel image enables users to examine details that would otherwise go unappreciated on account institutional access restrictions and the limits of natural human vision.
The project has expanded its scope to include artifacts and sculpture in addition to paintings and offers a new way of browsing works called Discover, which allows users to specify subsets of the collection by artist, collection, work type, and period.
In its newly expanded form, the Google Art Project has diversified its previously Western-centric collection to include museums and works from all over the world. The new and improved project also allows users to integrate their Google Art Project accounts with their Google + profiles, socializing the online museum experience to an unprecedented degree. The My Gallery feature also offers expanded image-management functionality as part of an attempt to pitch the project towards students.
For more information, see the Google Blog post about the Google Art Project.