“We can take the experience of our Israel Museum worldwide, we can give people far away who will never get here a chance, palpably, to feel what this place is about,” said museum director James Snyder, “and we will give plenty of people who plan to come here an advance opportunity to get a handle on what this experience is about.”
In addition to the ancient Neolithic artifact, the online Israel Museum exhibit will showcase such items as the interior of the 18th-century Vittorio Veneto Synagogue in Italy, Claude Monet’s famous “Water Lilies” painting and the Bronze Medallion of Titus — a rare coin that depicts the Colosseum in Rome.
This latest venture comes on the heels of last year’s partnership with Google to present the Israel Museum’s world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls collection on the Internet. Within just a few days, the website attracted one million viewers, who were enchanted with the possibility of reviewing the ancient Biblical texts in greater detail than they could in person. In a similar fashion, the Google Art Project – with its presentation of images larger than a gigapixel (1 billion pixels) in size – enables viewers to zoom in extremely up close and examine cracks in the parchment and other details that would ordinarily not be visible to the naked eye.
The Israel Museum director, however, noted that the virtual viewing would not serve to deter people from actually visiting the museum. “It just makes your museum experience less daunting, it opens you more to what the experience can do for you,” he said. “It begins to allow you to develop familiarity – not just with an image, but with context.” Snyder had high praise for Google, which spent months mapping the museum with cameras mounted on top of bicycles.
The Israel Museum is actually just one of 151 museums from forty countries that have joined the Google Art Project. More than 30,000 high-resolution objects from museums worldwide are now available for viewing online. The artistic items can be found by location, artist, collections and other categories. “Connecting the content of the world to users, that is part of our mission,” said Yossi Matias, managing director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel. “The resolution of these images, combined with a custom built zoom viewer, allows art lovers to discover minute aspects of paintings and other objects they may never have seen up close.”
Google has also partnered with Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, to transform its photographs and documents into interactive material on the Internet. Moreover, Yad Vashem has started a YouTube channel, in collaboration with Google, that offers 400 hours-plus of original video footage from the landmark 1961 trial of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann.
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