Google launched a major upgrade of its globe-hopping virtual-art-museum project this morning. Our Philadelphia Museum of Art earned some "props."
First introduced last year with 17 museums in nine countries contributing 1,000 high resolution images (almost all paintings), the Google Art Project now invites on-line visitors to view paintings, sculpture, photographs and even street art from 151 repositories in 40 countries - from the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi to the White House in Washington, D.C.
The latter also offers Google's very cool 360 degree Street View feature - allowing a gawker to circle a room then zoom in on stuff that catches your eye - like the side-by-side portraits I spotted this morning of Jimmy Carter and LBJ.
Search and Share: Even better are the Google Art Project's new Explore and Discover tools, useful for finding artwork by period, artist or type. From one famous Tolouse Lau Trec ("At the Moulin Rouge") at our museum, I jumped to other works from the same Impressionist master hanging on virtual gallery walls in Buenos Ares, Budapest and Indianapolis (plus a lot more locales.)
A newly enhanced My Gallery feature lets Googlers select any of the 30,000 artworks - and your favorite closeup details - to build a personal library, add comments and share the whole collection with family and friends.
The Philly Bundle: While our Philadelphia museum holdings include many modern and contemporary works of art, the curators have only let loose 200 + works in the public domain - from Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" to Rogier Van der Weyden's two-panel depiction of "The Crucifixtion." Access will grow in time, though, shared a museum source. And, on its own, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is now in the midst of digitizing its entire collection of 227,000 works under the project name "Art 24/7" - which means exactly what it suggests. The goal is to eventually offer art lovers unlimited, around-the-clock visiting privileges on-line.
Complaints?: Because it runs on Flash, the Google Art Project doesn't play nicely on iPads. Apple tablet users can gain limited access to some of the treasures by loading the free, third party app Vizeum. It opened the doors to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Uffizi in Florence, though not to our trove.
If you're going in to visit via Internet Explorer, be prepared to add Chrome Frame.
Oh, and when delivering the next upgrade, Google, how about plugging in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Rodin Museum, University Museum and the newly relocated Barnes Foundation? All are filled with goodies (and fine lures for the tourist trade. )