Have you tried to get close enough to paintings at the Getty Museum to investigate individual brush strokes? If you did, a stern security officer probably asked you to step away from the painting. Now, you can get up close and personal with works from the Getty and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art without tripping alarms or being admonished.
The two Los Angeles museums are among the 134 museums that recently joined the Google Art Project, bringing their collections to visitors through virtual tours. The site includes narrated videos, audio guides, viewing notes and maps, among other offerings.
The project launched last year with virtual tours and digitized artworks from 17 museums. This expansion includes museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., the Musee d'Orsay in France, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, Islamic Museum of Qatar, Israel Museum and the White House. Forty countries are now represented.
A specially-designed Street View trolley shot 360-degree images of the galleries at the Getty, enabling smooth navigation between rooms, akin to actually strolling through the museum.
Our friends on the Culture Monster blog reported that the site started with about 1,000 objects and now has over 150 collections with 30,000 artworks. Diana Skaar of the Google project told Culture Monster that 20 million users have visited the site and have set up 200,000 user "collections" of favorite images.
Virtual gallery visitors can browse collections by artist, artwork, type of art, museum, country, city or collection and create personalized galleries of favorites from the participating museums around the world. There is a share function, but that's for desktop use only.
And, 44 museums in the project each chose a work to be photographed in extreme detail with super high-resolution, or "gigapixel," photo-capturing technology. These images comprise nearly 7 billion pixels, so you can get closer on these pieces than you ever could in person and see details, such as brushwork and patina, you wouldn't otherwise be able to see unassisted.
There are plans to continue expanding participation, with the possibility of an experimental section to showcase how artists are using emerging technology in showcasing their work, according to the site.
(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times
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