The Google Art Project has just opened a new world for Art Museum afficionados. They partnered with major museums around the world to produce interactive virtual tours that include high resolution reproductions of artwork as well as details on the museums, and artists. They are major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA in New York as well as important yet more intimate museums like the Frick Collection in New York and the Freer Gallery in Washington. As a Washingtonian, I’ve been to the Freer Gallery more times than I can count but I’ve also been to the Frick as well as the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This website will open the doors of museums to schools and individuals that might not have the opportunity to travel to the St. Hermitage Museum in Russia or the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. I also believe that it may inspire travel plans to these locations in person. (Semi short terms plans for me include visiting the Uffize in Florence).
I connected to the site on a new Mac Mini through a high bandwidth connection. It was seamless and clean. In what I’ve explored so far, I found the interface to be intuitive with the exception of the street view which felt clunky until I got a feel for it. I recommend using the floor plan navigation to jump around the museum rooms initially and then when you have a feel for the interface shift over to interacting with the street view. I appreciated some of the interface features in the interface including external links in each of the virtual museums to the official museum sites. The interface was simple, clean and easy to understand. One final thing to note is that it is developed in Flash so sadly iPad users at this time will not be able to relax and enjoy a virtual Google Art project tour.
As this site evolves, I will be following how it will be used in schools and universities. It is a real opportunity to introduce a new generation of digitally savvy students to the richness of our visual history. Bravo to Google and their Art Museum Partners!!