The Google Art Project Helps VMFA Share its Collection with Virginia . . . and the World

On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868, Edouard Manet (French), oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868, Edouard Manet (French), oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Sadly, some people will never have the opportunity to walk inside an art museum, but that limitation shouldn’t prevent them from experiencing and learning about art. To make the treasures in our collection accessible beyond the museum’s four walls, VMFA has launched ARTshare, an ambitious multi-year digital outreach initiative.

Part of that initiative is the Google Art Project, presented by the Google Cultural Institute, which allows us to share our collection with a global audience. The Google Art Project includes 45,000-plus works from more than 250 museums, galleries, and cultural heritage institutions around the world, including the MET, the National Gallery of Art, Musée d’Orsay, the Tate Gallery, and now VMFA.

Several years ago VMFA began the lengthy process of capturing high-resolution digital images of our holdings and verifying the information related to these objects. Currently, 131 works from our permanent collection are populated to the comprehensive Art Project site.

“As our partnership grows, we will continue to send more and more content to the Google Art Project,” says Travis Fullerton, VMFA’s Chief Collection Photographer and Manager of Imaging Resources. “We will also explore additional collaborations with the Google Cultural Institute such as participating in Google Gallery View, which uses Google Street View to walk users through the inside of our galleries.”

Visitors to the site can browse works by the artist’s name, the artwork, the type of art, the museum, the country, collections, and the time period. Once they’ve located the work, they can zoom in to see details they may not even be able to see in person. The My Gallery feature allows visitors to share their favorite works with others, while Google+ and video hangouts provide the opportunity to invite friends to view and discuss favorite works in a video chat or follow a guided tour led by an expert.

Over the next year, VMFA will also add works to the online archive Artstor to further expand exposure of our collection, with plans to explore even more online platforms in the future.