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Google Art Project

11/02/2011

On 1st February 2011, Google launched Google Art Project.

Using Street View technology, Google Art Project allows users to wander around 17 of the world’s top galleries and museums and view 1,061 artworks.

Over the past 18 months, a Google team has been zipping around the likes of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Palace of Versailles in France using trolley mounted cameras to photograph corridors and galleries.  Users can explore each gallery from room to room, or create their own collections of masterpieces.  Google Art Project promises to bring museums and art galleries to your desktop, and its creators have said that they plan to add more museums to the original line-up going forward.

So – from a museum or gallery’s point of view, is Google Art Project a good thing or a bad thing?

There’s no doubt that it will allow people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to visit the museum or gallery (due to location or other factors) the chance to experience it.  Increasing access to beautiful art has to be considered a great thing.

It could also help to raise the profile of the museums and art galleries which feature in the project, inspiring people to go and visit them for real.

However, a question that some museums and galleries who are perhaps considering participating in the project may ask themselves; if someone views the museum or gallery on Google Art Project, does this mean that they are less likely to go and see the real thing?  If they ever happened upon the opportunity, would they pass it up because they have already seen it, albeit on a computer screen?  There is a risk that the emergence of Google Art Project will reduce the desire to visit it in person.

We are constantly being presented with new ways to live our lives virtually.  So much can be done now simply by sitting behind a computer and logging on to the internet.  But is Google Art Project taking virtual reality one step too far?

As someone who has been privileged enough to have experienced some of the world’s most amazing museums and art galleries, I can categorically say that there is definitely no substitute for the real thing.  Some things just have to be seen (in real life!) to be believed.

Check it out yourself and make up your own mind.

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