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Smarthistory and the Google Art Project

Big news today in the world of art–and the world of teaching and learning with and about art–and the world of “jailbreaking” the museum (or access to all kinds of cultural knowledge).

Actually it’s two items of big news.

The first is Google’s announcement of version 2 of their already tremendous Google Art Project.  They’ve now got 151 museums, from 40 countries (up from only 17 when they first launched).  That’s 32,000 works of art.  But these are not just little clipart low-quality watermarked jpgs.  They’re gorgeous, high-resolution, full color, zoomable, suitable-for-study images.  For some of them there is even “museum view” which lets you simulate walking around the museum and seeing the art in the context where it currently sits.

And then there’s the other fact, which of course has a strong personal resonance for me (on many levels!). For quite a few of these works of art (over 100), there are videos made by the wonderful folks at Smarthistory.  Of course these add to the enjoyment, the understanding, the learning, the questioning of the art.  A great example, a favorite of mine, is Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Tower of Babel.  It’s fantastic, with so much to see, but it’s in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.  Except now, it’s not only there, it’s also got a version on the Google Art Project. Take a look.  Zoom in.  Pan around.  Really see what’s happening there.  And then click on the “Details” link at the top of the screen, and you won’t only see the “normal” kind of details you might expect (description, map, style, material), but you’ll also see a video.

And that video, like over 100 others on the new Google Art Project, comes from the one and only Smarthistory team.  Conversational, informal, engaging, informative and provocative…just what we want and expect and need!

As the Smarthistory team says in their announcement:

We jumped at this opportunity because the Art Project has such enormous educational potential. It is critical to gather works of art from different institutions to tell the nuanced stories of art history. The Art Project brings together works of art from 151 museums in 40 countries within a cohesive visual environment. The high resolution images, powerful zoom function, “Museum View” (an interior version of “Street View”) and the ability to collect and annotate images, are all features that are ideal for teaching and learning.

Viva the Museum without Walls!


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