Google Debuts Free Museum Tours

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) launched a website Tuesday that can bring the art world into your home, free of charge.

The site, Google Art Project, catalogs the masterpieces in more than a dozen renowned museums around the world, including the Reina Sofia in Madrid, where you can find some of Picasso’s best work and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which contains much of Rembrandt’s oeuvre.

Art Project doesn’t just let you view the paintings inside each of these museums, it also lets you explore the museum itself virtually, applying the same technology that Google Street View uses to give us the ability to explore neighborhoods and streets on the computer screen, without having to step outside the house. Now, you can walk through galleries in some of the world’s best museums, simply by clicking your mouse.

“The Street View team designed a brand-new vehicle called the ‘trolley’ to take 360-degree images of the interior of selected galleries,” Amit Sood, head of the Google Art Project, wrote in a blog post. “These were then stitched together and mapped to their location, enabling smooth navigation of more than 385 rooms within the museums.”

Sood notes that the goal of the new site, which started as a side project for several engineers working at Google, is “to help museums make their art more accessible – not just to regular museum-goers or those fortunate to have great galleries on their doorsteps, but to a whole new set of people who might otherwise never get to see the real thing up close.”

In fact, you can get much closer to some paintings than museum guards would allow you to get in person. Each of the museums participating in the Art Project agreed to photograph one piece of art that users at home can then zoom in on for “brushstroke-level detail.”