Google and the Digital Commons of Art

Today Google launched its Art Project, which it describes as a “unique collaboration with some of the world’s most acclaimed art museums to enable people to discover and view more than a thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail”. Here is gli Uffizi

Essentially Google has taken its Street View technology to explore museums and move around seventeen of the world’s top museums, with 1000 works of art, with the ability to navigate through 385 rooms with interactive floor plans. Zoom by Artwork View at high resolution coupled with related YouTube videos.

* Create your own collection: the ‘Create an Artwork Collection’ feature allows you to save specific views of any of the 1000+ artworks, and build your own personalised collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends and family.

It’s slightly spotty in coverage, because Google approached the museums without any curatorial direction, and each museum followed its own strategies (or whims) in choosing the number of galleries, artwork and information they wanted to include. The content in the information panel for individual artworks was also provided by the museums, which may explain how some museums fall short. Some of the museums insisted on blurring paintings and features captured with Street View because of copyright concerns. Here is Tate director Nicholas Serota talking about collaborating with Google to produce the first global art collection.

The Washington Post points out that the new service permits Whistler’s “The Princess From the Land of Porcelain,” at the Freer to be digitized through the “gigapixel” process, which stitches together multiple high-resolution images. You can see the faintest trace of white paint Whistler used to make his subject’s eyes glisten, as well as the nubby, gridlike texture of the canvas underneath.

“On average there are 7 billion pixels” per image, said Amit Sood, leader of the Google Art Project. “This is a thousand times more than the average digital camera.” “The giga-pixel experience brings us very close to the essence of the artist through detail that simply can’t be seen in the gallery itself,” said Julian Raby, director of the Freer. “Far from eliminating the necessity of seeing artworks in person, Art Project deepens our desire to go in search of the real thing.”

Art Project

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