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Night Watching at Home
February 1, 2011 3:38 AM   Subscribe

Art Project, powered by Google: explore museums and galleries from around the world in the same way you explore cities with Street View and click on a painting (or select one from the list) to view a high quality scan.

Currently limited to seventeen museums and galleries in Europe and the US.

FAQ
posted by mahershalal (29 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 

Currently limited to seventeen museums and galleries in Europe and the US.


O boy, how spoiled we've become if full free access to 17 of the world's greatest museums (the Tate! The NY Met! The Van Gogh! etc.) is thought of as "limited."

Great post, thanks.
posted by chavenet at 3:56 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


All we need now are tourists on a mission to see every artwork in an hour, large groups of bored and noisy schoolchildren and exorbitant entry fees.

Oh no wait...

(Great post though, thanks. This brought back very fond memories of a guided tour in the Rijksmuseum and being blown away by the size and vibrancy of Rembrant's De Nachtwacht).
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 4:31 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded somewhat of my reaction to the turn-the-pages collection at the British Library : it's brilliant that there is greater access to artistic works, but I wonder if the virtual swishing over a manuscript page or the swivelling around and virtual walking through a gallery and museum, as here, isn't ultimately an impediment or distraction. Part of me would rather watch a video clip about the gallery building and collection ethos or whatever, and then go off and examine the paintings without all the added navigational hoopla. I guess that means I'm not quite the target audience.

Thanks for posting this though!
posted by peacay at 4:36 AM on February 1, 2011


Help! Stendhal Syndrome!

This is too beautiful.
posted by rahulrg at 4:49 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's funny. When I clicked on the National Gallery it dropped me right in front of Holbein's The Ambassadors. Then I realized that, not matter how much I played with the Google interface I was unable to see the anamorphic skull!

Like peacay, I suppose, I appreciate this but I can't say I enjoy it. It might just be me but I spend too much time battling the interface instead of enjoying the paintings. This is a great resource though to find paintings that I just *know* are at gallery X but cannot find a good reproduction online.
posted by vacapinta at 5:05 AM on February 1, 2011


Cool
posted by caddis at 5:09 AM on February 1, 2011


Wow, this is way cool! Thanks.

Bliss.
posted by nickyskye at 5:10 AM on February 1, 2011


Servers must be getting crushed, keeps crashing...
posted by dancestoblue at 5:14 AM on February 1, 2011


It's crazy to be able to look at the paintings up closer than even the artist probably ever did. We live in a strange time.
posted by d11 at 5:16 AM on February 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


O boy, how spoiled we've become if full free access to 17 of the world's greatest museums (the Tate! The NY Met! The Van Gogh! etc.) is thought of as "limited."

Exactly my first thought, too. But the gallery is absolutely spectacular.
posted by The Michael The at 5:58 AM on February 1, 2011



can you only see one room in Moma and the Freer?
posted by PinkMoose at 6:15 AM on February 1, 2011


Very nice resource - better than my old art history books, some of which are in black & white.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:42 AM on February 1, 2011


PinkMoose: Yes. See the floor plan in the menu that appears when you press the 'i' in the top right corner of the page

It seems the easiest way to navigate the site is to select a museum, then press the 'i' and select the last item, 'More Works in this Museum', to see a complete list of all the scanned art works in that museum. Don't bother with the Street View mode.

A general list of all artists with links to individual images would be very useful.
posted by mahershalal at 6:45 AM on February 1, 2011


I'm really pleased to see museums start getting beyond the fear that making high-quality digital surrogates of their collections available online means that people won't visit the collections in person anymore. I think the opposite is true--the more you expose people to these great works, the more you fuel the desire to see them with their own eyes. Anybody who thinks that seeing a scan of a Van Gogh is a substitute for seeing the painting probably wasn't that serious about going to see the painting in the first place.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Like peacay, I suppose, I appreciate this but I can't say I enjoy it.

I think this is one of those things that can't hurt. It's not maybe the optimal art experience - well, it's definitely not the optimal art experience - but it does increase access to museum collections and that is a good thing. What I don't love so much is that this is kind of just an iteration of the 'virtual tour,' which a lot of museums tried doing on their websites five or ten years ago, and has generally been thought of as sort of a disappointing way to handle collections digitally. Galleries are good media for viewing museum objects in a physical space, but replicating galleries on a 2D screen with funky navigation maybe isn't the best way to explore museums online. It is fairly easy to do, though, as interpretation goes, and provides some basic familiarity with a collection. It could be a good resource for planning travel and for teachers planning class trips or teaching about historic art movements or time periods.

I'm at least glad that there's the interest in tackling the museum/web interface with some powerful talent and processing, even if not all attempts are ideal. I do hope and wish the powers at Google continue to think of ways to expand access to museum collections.
posted by Miko at 6:52 AM on February 1, 2011


What I want to know is why google hasn't added a simple WASD/mouse control scheme to street view yet. It would make everything so much easier.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Google Blog post.
posted by mahershalal at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2011


Aw man, I REALLY needed to get some work done this morning. Oh well. *goes back to clapping and giggling*
posted by oinopaponton at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2011


It's crazy to be able to look at the paintings up closer than even the artist probably ever did.

You aren't kidding. I kept pushing in on a Van Gogh expecting to see that I'd reached the maximum magnification, but nope, it just got bigger and bigger till I was looking at minute cracks in the paint.

Which is just neat in a way I'm having a hard time articulating.
posted by quin at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2011


It even makes me sleepy and hungry, just like a real museum. And then I saw this: I didn't do it!
posted by hanoixan at 9:00 AM on February 1, 2011


I love the blurred out paintings on the MOMA page. Lack of reproduction rights, or Gerhard Richter pieces!
posted by R. Mutt at 9:16 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absolutely brilliant..thanks for posting!
posted by multiphrenic at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2011


I've been to MoMA several times, and never noticed the large pentagonal trapdoor in the floor. It's a sly commentary on the hidden perils of spectatorship as juxtaposed with the viewer's expectations of the museum experience and how they might be thwarted -- as though at any moment the "floor" of one's aesthetic judgement might drop out from underneath one; as though it might be possible to be startled by art once again. I looked around the gallery for a placard, but the piece seems to be unattributed. A masterpiece of subversion.
posted by sleevener at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2011


Damn. What a day to get snowed in.
posted by Sailormom at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2011


Though I can't claim any high-brow purpose, being able to zoom in on the tiny village scenes tucked away in Bruegel's The Harvesters is pretty darn cool. I'd never even noticed the nude bathers before!
posted by chortly at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2011


There are some behind the scenes videos up on Youtube that are well done.

I found it interesting to see which painting was chosen for each museum's super high res spotlight. For example, the detailed brushwork on Rembrandt's Night Watch is incredible. Zoom in on the gentleman in white in the foreground and tell me that anyone has painted a feathered hat better than that.

(No seriously, tell me, because you would be wrong.)
posted by jeremias at 3:47 PM on February 1, 2011


Jermias:

It is an excellent, amazing feathered hat, but i still think that Vige Le Brun's Self Portrait from 1782 would be close. I mean nightwatchmen is the best painting like eva, but in terms of hatdom---http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c1/Vigee-Lebrun1782.jpg/436px-Vigee-Lebrun1782.jpg
posted by PinkMoose at 5:34 PM on February 1, 2011


PinkMoose:

I will reserve judgment until tha internets allow me to see this one up close too. But that is a fine feathered hat, I will give you that.
posted by jeremias at 8:13 PM on February 1, 2011


This is wonderful. I'll be looking at these today instead of driving on sheets of ice!
posted by pemberkins at 8:31 AM on February 2, 2011


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