Technology and Culture got together and had a love child. They called it Google Arts & Culture.
So many wonderful exhibits, so many historic sites around the world, and so little time….! How often have you been dreaming of getting lost in the British Museum or roaming the Louvre? Have you ever wanted to catch a glimpse inside the Sydney Opera House, wander around the Taj Mahal, hang out at a Tibetan monastery, or walk in the traces of long-vanished civilizations, but it has never been within reach, time, or budget? That was the past. Now you can simply go on a digital journey of discovery. Recently launched to little fanfare, Google Arts & Culture features almost ten million œuvres from over 1,000 leading museums and archives in 50 countries who have partnered with the Google Cultural Institute to bring the world’s treasures online.
The most complete digital collection of artwork, collections, and stories anywhere, this gigantic project brings the world to your doorstep. There are literally thousands of virtual tours, offering something for everyone – for amateur art lovers and history buffs, for professional culture vultures and educators. There is of course a whole catalog of mainstream culture, but more obscure topics still find their space, and groups that are often marginalized in history and the arts, like women or ethnic minorities, are well represented.
Part of this site is structured like a permanent exhibit of the world’s museums, ranging from the most prestigious ones to smaller or specialist venues. The Smithsonian in Washington DC is on there, and so is, for instance, Villa Arson in Nice (pictured above). The halls are yours to explore, by section, by artist, by art movement, or by origin. But beyond static photos, Google Arts & Culture’s ultra high-resolution technology also lets you zoom in to discover hidden images and messages in artwork or almost touch the painter’s brush stroke. You can wander around the museum of your choice as if you were there – look at the oeuvre from different angles, or sit down on a bench opposite a painting to take it in in its actual surrounding. Or sneak a peek into corners that are not usually open to the public, and then enjoy the view from the window. Expert curators provide commentary on demand and share the oeuvres’ back stories with you. You can even follow high-profile exhibit openings on the other side of the planet in real time.
Another portion is dedicated to architectural wonders all around the globe. Here you can take a closer look at the great monuments from every angle. See the world through the eyes of the Statue of Liberty, or take a tour of Rio, from the favelas to the Christ statue on Mount Sugarloaf. Go temple-hopping in Kyoto or take a hike around an American state park, all from the convenience of your armchair, and all in 3D with sweeping panoramic views.
And the third section features historic personalities, dates, or events. The summer of the 1944 Liberation, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the life story of Marie Curie, anyone? The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad, or 400 years of Shakespeare’s theatre, the biographies of great artists and personalities from Titian to Nelson Mandela … Whatever your interest, you are bound to find abundant visual material, rich background stories down to granular detail, and previously unpublished information.
Needless to say that you can share everything on the site, and even participate yourself, actively and interactively. You can also study techniques and materials, one era at a time. So what does all this cost? Are you ready for this? Nothing. It’s free. Entirely free, not even a sign-up is required. The Google Cultural Institute – the initiative behind the Silicon Valley giant’s project – offers this in “an effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations”.
Among the hundreds of partners in this worldwide collaborative project are leading and lesser-known museums and galleries, but also the American Presidential Archives, the Harvard Institute of Politics, the Bavarian State Library, universities, history centers, and even theatres.
Updated on a daily basis with dozens of fresh stories and works, this site is utterly addictive. The cat’s bowl will go unfilled for days, laundry will go unwashed, and date nights are off, but you will thank us for this tip. No, actually – rather thank Google, because they are really doing the very best here that the Internet is meant to do: educate, share, and delight.
Lead image via Google Arts & Culture, from the collection of Wende Museum; photos of Villa Arson © RIVIERA BUZZ