The Israel Museum Joins the Google Art Project
Written by: Ayelet Dekel
“Today is mashehu aher [Hebrew: something else],” said James S. Snyder, Director of the Israel Museum, as the Israel Museum joined the Google Art Project, in an official launch held at the Israel Musem on April 3, 2012, making its galleries and 520 objects from the Museums’s collections accessible online. Now anyone with access to the internet can virtually walk through the museum, browse through the collections, access background information on objects and artists, and thanks to high resolution images – view details that might be hard to discern when standing in front of the object in the museum.
“Does this mean we lose our edge? Hardly,” said Snyder. On the contrary, the project will connect a wider audience to the Museum and its collections, as Snyder said, “We sit here in Jerusalem at the center of the universe, but we’re not around the corner for everybody.”Prof. Yossi Matias, Managing Director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel, said, “as an engineer, scientist, supporter and admirer of culture, I think this is exciting use of technology.” Matias noted that the Google Art Project began as one of Google’s 20% projects, and said, “engineers at Google are given the opportunity to use 20% of their time to pursue projects they find interesting. A group at Google interested in art set a goal to upload the world’s art treasures to the internet and make them accessible to all – they succeeded far beyond their dreams.”
Some of the projects attractive features include: navigation of museum interiors; browsing content by artist’s names, artworks, types of art, museums, countries, collections and time periods; the “Create an Artwork Collection” feature allows users to save views of artworks, build and share their own collection of favorites with other users. Among the Israel Museum’s objects in the project are a Neolithic Mask belonging to a group of rare stone masks dating back 9,000 years found in the Judean desert; and a Bronze Medallion of Titus from 80 CE. Behind Perspex in the museum, in some ways the internet brings these objects closer.
The Israel Museum’s collection of Jewish and Israeli culture, history and art will be accessible to the world, as will those of the Google Art Project’s 151 partners in 40 countries, offering, one hopes, more opportunities for pleasure, learning and dialogue. It’s like recorded music vs. live performances – each offers a different experience, each enhances the other, and I wouldn’t want to be without either one.