Dec 24, 2015 | By Tess

Can you imagine perusing thousands of priceless artworks, and travelling through the halls of the world’s greatest museums from the comfort of your own living room, or even more comfortably from your bed? Well, thanks to the Google Cultural Institute (GCI), it is entirely possible.

The Google Cultural Institute, which was launched in 2011 after the announcement of the Google Art Project, functions similarly to Google Street View in that it allows people to virtually explore spaces, though instead of streets and cities, users are given access to a number of museums and galleries, such as the Tate Modern in London, or the Chicago Institute of Art.

Excitingly, GCI recently partnered with the British Museum and have just launched the virtual version of it, which covers nine floors of the museum and 85 of its permanent galleries, making it the most expansive interior Google street view space.

Upon entering the virtual museum you’ll find yourself in the Great Court, Europe’s largest covered square, underneath its impressive glass ceiling, from there you can choose where your avatar leads you, by operating movements in the same way that Google Street View works.

Not only can you virtually wander through the British Museum’s halls, however, browsing the nearly 80,000 pieces and artifacts that are on display in the galleries - only 1% of the Museum’s full collection - but you can observe several individual pieces through a GCI “microsite”. That is, more than 4,500 of the art pieces and artifacts in the museum have been photographed in high-resolution and have descriptions attached to them, allowing for virtual museum-goers to zoom in and observe the physical details as well as the historic backgrounds of the pieces.

Of course, one of the biggest advantages of perusing the museum virtually through GCI is that the museum is deserted, you are its sole visitor. To achieve this, the Google cameras had to go through the space outside of opening hours. The process of capturing the museum virtually consisted of wheeling a seven foot tall, two foot wide camera trolley through the museum which took a whole of five days. “The time it took to do the Street View capture is pretty much the amount of time it would take to walk through all of the galleries,” explains Piotr Adamczyk, the GCI program manager for the project.

The collaboration with the Google Cultural Institute is not the British Museum’s first foray into virtual and digital applications, however, as it also created a public database consisting of over 3.5 million of its objects that was launched in 2007. Notably, virtual visitors of the British Museum can also choose to 3D print certain artifacts which have been 3D scanned and whose 3D printing files are readily available on the museum’s Sketchfab page. So, if you’re in the market for a bust of Zeus or the head of Amenemhat III, you can 3D print your own.

According to Chris Michaels, the head of digital media and publishing at the British Museum, “The British Museum was founded on the principle to tell the story of the whole world to the people of the world. We’re a museum built on sharing.” Considering this, the museum’s active integration into the virtual and cyber world makes sense, as they continue to make not only certain pieces accessible through 3D printing, but also have made the entire museum accessible through the Google Cultural Institute.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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