Bringing Art to New Generations

Once again it seems Google is leading the charge to a more collaborative universe, and this time it’s taking an aim at art fans around the world.

Google, whose name has long since been synonymous with web innovation, has now extended its cameras from the streets to museums the world over. From the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Google’s latest program, Art Project, allows users to view hundreds of pieces of classic and modern art without ever having to leave their desk.

The program actually launched last week, for those of you that may not have heard of it, but I myself only discovered this gem a few days ago. I’m already in love. For the art fan like myself, this program opens the doors to 17 museums across the United States and Europe and hundreds of artistic treasures I otherwise likely never would have gotten to see in person.

Yet as interesting as this new realm of possibilities is, Art Project is, at the moment, more intriguing for its potential than for its actual capabilities at the moment. The system is a bugged one in places, and you get the feeling Google’s still finding its ground to stand on with this program. Some locales are higher quality than others; some are fairly blurred and abstract, while with others you can zoom right into high-resolution images such that you can almost feel as though you’re running your hands along treasures like Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” or Byzantine iconography It’s just you and a magnifying glass for these images, so you can pour over every succulent inch.

The museum tours themselves are simply Google’s street view brought indoors, and you can use arrows to tour the facilities at your leisure. In several locales you even get the full 360-degree treatment, so as to lose nothing of the world’s most stunning galleries – like, for example, the beautiful murals in Versailles. Not all rooms in these places are in the boundaries yet, but there’s still enough of a journey that you can busy yourself for several satisfying hours.

Though many museums have already allowed virtual journeys like this, Art Project is still a major leap forward in the interaction of the web and the arts community. It provides easy travel across continents and years of artistic splendor, all gathered nice-and-tidy under one accessible roof. Best of all: it’s an art journey that’s completely free.

With luck and time, hopefully more museums and galleries will sign on to the project. Google itself noted that thus far, while many have been approached, these 17 museums were the only ones to sign on to the idea. If people start devouring this new internet gem, though, it could spark something of a revitalized art craze – and that could stir more of these places to action.

In this day and age, anything that keeps the art scene alive is a good way to go; the old generation needs to get with the program, and this is a nice start on that road. Reconciling the classics to modern technology only helps to further preserve these beauties for the generations to come, and it preserves, above all, the knowledge and culture we should all cherish.

So my review? Good program. Great potential. Definitely worth a look – just be prepared for some bugs, and don’t go in expecting the world. As they say: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Google’s opening its doors to more art than Rome ever saw.

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