Amanda Gutierrez

Google It: App Makes Art Accessible

Amanda Gutierrez

In high school, my class took a field trip to the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The opportunity let me experience the amazing collection of art nestled in southern California. Not everyone can get to the Getty—or to other museums throughout the world—but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the chance to see the amazing collections that are out there. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could see great works of art from your own home? Now, thanks to Google, you can!

In July of 2016, Google released their Arts & Culture feature, which brings users closer to the art world. The technology exists as an app for both iOS and Android devices and is also available as a website. Arts & Culture provides information for users regardless of whether they are able to visit Google’s museum partners.

If you are lucky enough to be viewing an artwork in person, at certain museums you can use a smartphone camera, point it at an artwork you want to know more about, and the app will find out the name and any more info it has on that piece. For those who cannot get to every museum they want to, the app also allows users to look at an immense catalog of high-quality images of artwork from around the world. With this app, people can delve through Google’s collection from about a thousand museums in 70 countries.

This newest Google feature also lets you check out the museums’ hours, locations and current exhibits in case you want to plan a visit. For a select number of exhibits in Google’s partner museums you can take a virtual tour using virtual reality viewer! If you don’t happen to have one on hand, the website version of the app will let you take a pseudo-tour of some exhibits and locations.

Once you’ve found a piece of art that intrigues you, you can zoom in on the high-resolution image to see the minute details of the piece. It may not be the same as seeing the artwork in person, but the chance to virtually inspect the aesthetics may take a close second. 

On the app or the website, you can delve even further into art history and look through a specific artist’s work by date, material, art movement and even color. Or you can organize an artist’s collected works by popularity. Think about watching a famous artist’s style develop right before your eyes—sounds pretty amazing to me.

Did You Know?
With 19 museums and galleries, 9 research centers and the National Zoo, the Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum in the world. It is estimated that the full collection of the Smithsonian comprises around 156 million items.

Photo Credit: Dror Feitelson

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