Virtual Museum Tours on Google Arts & Culture Are Dizzying – – Google Alerts

I’ve been taking some virtual walks lately through vacant closed museums. By which I mean to say I’ve been scrolling through Google Arts & Culture tours, clicking in and out of museums in Milan and Los Angeles and Seoul, using the arrow keys to spin around and around galleries I’ll probably never visit in person.

As museums the world over shut their doors in response to an uncontrolled global pandemic, many are staying open virtually, posting Instagram stories, livestreams, YouTube lectures, and Twitter threads. Some are spotlighting Google Arts & Culture tours that were uploaded before the fact. Since 2011, Google has partnered with hundreds of cultural institutions around the world to digitize portions of their physical space and make them virtually trawlable. The tours use the same technology as Google Street View, which aims to map and photograph every street on earth. As of December 2019, the company claimed it had captured 10 million miles of imagery, from the house down to the block to sections of the Great Barrier Reef. The world of Google Arts & Culture falls under the umbrella of the Google Cultural Institute, which falls under the umbrella of Google, which falls under the umbrella of Alphabet, which is a very large umbrella indeed. Like Google Street View, the world of Google Arts & Culture exists somewhere between 2D and 3D: 360-degree panoramas stitched together into on-screen simulations of physical spaces.

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In Google Arts & Culture’s “featured” category, I clicked on “Italy: All Roads Lead to Culture,” headlined by a zoomed-in video montage of gondoliers, marble fountains, the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, and a small church on a wheat-colored hill bracketed by cypress trees. I couldn’t help it: despite the easy sentiment, my heart swelled a little at the last image, which could be anywhere in Italy, but could also be a place where the death knells ring…

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