For many college-aged students, surfing the web is both a veritable skill and treasured past time. While you can attempt to find the bottom of your News Feed (It doesn’t exist — I’ve tried!), you can also use these skills to “peruse” the collection of your favorite museum. Nothing compares to seeing a work of art in person, but some amazing initiatives exist that combine art and technology in ways revolutionizing how we access visual art. Far from your typical museum website, these projects demonstrate a commitment to public education by providing inventive opportunities for personal discovery. It doesn’t matter if you’re an art history expert or know nothing about the subject, the following websites promise hours of enjoyment to anyone with an Internet connection and a sense of curiosity:
Google Cultural Institute
The Google Cultural Institute makes available online cultural exhibitions through its partnerships with a variety of arts institutions and heritage organizations. Within the institute, the Google Art Project publishes extremely high-resolution photographs organized for maximum browsing potential. Zoom in to see textures and brushstrokes not easily visible to the naked eye. You can also use the site’s compare feature to simultaneously contemplate works located in, say, Italy and Brazil (and basically defy the limitations of time and space, nbd).
Just as Google Maps’ Street View famously enables users to view panoramic images of streets around the world, the Google Cultural Institute employs similar technology to allow users to virtually visit a number of cultural sites and institutions. Check out the Taj Mahal in 360-degrees or use Museum View to virtually walk through the galleries of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. No longer must art viewed on the Internet be removed from its architectural context or separated from the surrounding works with which it converses.
Source: Google Cultural Institute
With a collection of over 140,000 artworks, Artsy.net similarly commits to making art accessible to the masses. Partnered with over 1,800 galleries and over 250 museums/institutions, Artsy seamlessly brings together the cutting edge and the historical via fresh editorial content and extensive archives. You can even buy original works off the site and start your very own collection. The site’s real gem, however, is the Art Genome Project headed by Matthew Israel ’99. Often compared to Pandora Radio, the “recommendation engine” enables you to find art similar to what you already like by categorizing works and placing them in an easy-to-use format.
In my opinion, posts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Instagram account can easily be considered works of art themselves. From #tbt posts depicting crowded, early 20th century gallery walls to their recent #emptymet campaign, technology is allowing users to see the museum in ways otherwise impossible. Better yet, since the posts automatically enter your feed, following @metmuseum ensures you have an art-filled day with little to no effort on your part.
And the Met’s not alone; art museums, auction houses and artists alike now run Instagram accounts regularly giving followers behind-the-scenes information and updates. A highly visual medium, Instagram proves to be perfect for sharing visual art.
Source: @metmuseum on Instagram
So what do you think? Does viewing art this way detract from the experience or do these projects mark an exciting new era of open access in the arts?