Here is something really new and exiting, although really it is just the logical extension of an already existing idea. The Art Project, powered by Google takes the street view technology of Google Earth, and uses it to create virtual walking tours of famous museums.
“A unique collaboration with some of the world’s most acclaimed art museums to enable people to discover and view more than a thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail.”
This is the next step in virtual tourism, and it really is pretty cool. It is interesting that the very first “virtual tour” was done by a museum, and they are used by museums everywhere to give visitors an opportunity to have a guided tour of the artwork.
Google's virtual tour includes the Artwork View feature:
“ discover featured artworks at high resolution and use the custom viewer to zoom into paintings. Expanding the info panel allows you to read more about an artwork, find more works by that artist and watch related YouTube videos.”
That high resolution is really high, you can see the brushstrokes and cracking in the old oil paint. The info panel (click on the (>>i) icon to get it, it's not obvious) has historical information, links to you tube curator discussions and viewing notes.
Another feature allows you to create your own collection:
“the ‘Create an Artwork Collection’ feature allows you to save specific views of any of the 1000+ artworks and build your own personalised collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends and family.”
I am not sure how useful this feature is, but I like the idea of it, because it lets users achieve some kind of ownership over these masterworks. Art has always appealed to our acquisitive instinct, so if the Google art project offers users a sense of virtual ownership, they are much more likely to take an interest in the preservation of their 'property'.
I would love to see this project expand, and I am sure it will (the folks at Google are good at that). It includes a good selection of galleries from around the world, but the collection on display are limited. All of the art seems to be paintings on canvas. I for one would like to see this 360-degree street view technology used to get a look at some sculpture.