The idea that the world’s most important artworks should be made available online isn’t new. Also, the idea that we’re spending more and more time in an online environment can’t be denied anymore. We’ll let someone else ponder whether this is good or bad.
The idea behind Google’s Cultural Institute is pretty simple: they have partnered with museums and other cultural institutions in an attempt to provide people digital copies of important artwork or cultural landmarks. That way, they’re made available to anyone anywhere.
Some would say that the online viewing of art diminishes part of the experience, mostly because the size of a painting is part of an artist’s statement, and that is something that can’t be “felt” on a screen.
But does it really matter?
When you take into consideration the alternative, which is never having the chance to view those particular works of art and history, I’d say not.
An online database of the world’s most important paintings, sculptures, historical photographs, and so on shares a goal with many of the world’s artists, which is to reach as many people as possible. This is what art is supposed to do. And in a world of billions of devices connected to the Internet this can only be achieved by storing those works of art on the Internet and making them available for free.
Google Cultural Institute has a number of projects, among which:
1. Art Project, where museums from over 40 countries have contributed some 40,000 high-resolution images of all kinds of artwork. Also, there’s a neat feature called Museum View, where you can virtually walk around certain buildings such as the Palace of Versailles or The White House.
2. World Wonders Project, where you get something like a Google Street View for ancient or modern World Heritage sites, such as Stonehenge or Pompeii. You also get some background info on those certain buildings, videos, and photos. All the sites are categorized quite nicely, by location and type.
3. Archives exhibitions, which basically gives you access to content that isn’t usually on public display.
Overall, Google Cultural Institute proves to be a nice addition to the plethora of sites determined to transfer thousands of years of human history to this new online environment. It’s not only a database of works of art, it’s also determined to be interactive, allowing users to create their own custom galleries of artwork, and, of course, to share everything they find on social networks.