Google has announced a collaboration with 17 of the world’s most acclaimed art museums that lets people view over 1,000 high res artwork images and 17 "gigapixel" images while taking a virtual stroll through their galleries using “Street View” technology. While nothing can beat seeing a work of art in person, the Google Art Project could be the next best thing for those without the time and money to pop on a plane and trade elbows with crowds of tourists looking to catch a glimpse of what some of the best museums have on offer.

Google has spent the last 18 months working with museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, the National Gallery and Tate in London, The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and Uffizi Gallery in Florence to capture super high resolution images of famous artworks. While many art museums already provide access to some of their collections online, Google Art Project is the first that allows virtual tourists to walk through the museum’s halls using Street View technology to see how the works are arranged.

To capture the 360 degree Street View images a specially designed trolley was taken through over 385 rooms within the museums. In addition to being viewed through the Google Art Project website, the gallery interiors can also be accessed directly within Street View in Google Maps.

As the user moves around the virtual galleries they can choose to go for a closer look on any of the 1,061 works of art captured in high resolution with the use of a custom built zoom viewer that Google says, “allows art-lovers to discover minute aspects of paintings they may never have seen up close before, such as the miniaturized people in the river of El Greco’s ‘View of Toledo’, or individual dots in Seurat’s ‘Grandcamp, Evening’.

Additionally, each of the 17 museums taking part in the project was asked to select one artwork to be photographed in super high "gigapixel" resolution. The resultant images each contain around 7 billion pixels, which enables viewers to study details fine details, such as the brushwork and patina, that can’t even be seen with the naked eye.

The site allows visitors to create their own personalized collection by saving specific views of any of the artworks. They can also add their own critiques to each painting, which can then be shared with friends and family. Google also sees this as an ideal tool for students or groups working on collaborative projects or collections.

“This initiative started as ‘20% project’ by a group of Googlers passionate about making art more accessible online. Together with our museum partners around the world we have created what we will hope will be a fascinating resource for art-lovers, students and casual museum goers alike - inspiring them to one day visit the real thing,” said Amit Sood, head of the project.

So if you’re looking to inject a touch of culture into your day, you can head on over to the Google Art Project to view artworks from the following museums:

  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin - Germany
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC - USA
  • The Frick Collection, NYC - USA
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin - Germany
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC - USA
  • MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC - USA
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid - Spain
  • Museo Thyssen - Bornemisza, Madrid - Spain
  • Museum Kampa, Prague - Czech Republic
  • National Gallery, London - UK
  • Palace of Versailles - France
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - The Netherlands
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg - Russia
  • State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow - Russia
  • Tate, London - UK
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence - Italy
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam - The Netherlands
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