VMFA Teams Up with Google to Magnify the Visitor Experience

Art Camera enables on-site and online visitors to explore their favorite works in stunning detail

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts recently had 42 works in its collection captured by the Google Art Camera, a robotic camera custom-built to produce ultra-high resolution gigapixel images. Severin Roesen’s The Abundance of Nature is just one example of how the Art Camera enables visitors to view not just the entire work of art as a painting but to zoom in on the tiny strokes of genius that make it a true masterpiece.

The Abundance of Nature, ca. 1855, Severin Roesen (American, born Germany, 1816–ca. 1872), oil on canvas. J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art, 2002.558

The Abundance of Nature, ca. 1855, Severin Roesen (American, born Germany, 1816–ca. 1872), oil on canvas. J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art, 2002.558

The details are exquisite: tiny white feathers strewn across a bird’s nest, a ladybug hidden on the underside of a leaf, a moth resting on a stem, and even the artist’s signature cleverly concealed in a twisting grapevine. It’s the little touches like these that make The Abundance of Nature a true masterpiece. The only problem? These features are so small they can be difficult to spot with the naked eye.

To date, the Art Camera has documented 1,745 objects from some of the world’s most acclaimed institutions, including the Met, Musee D’Orsay, MoMA, and now VMFA. The stunning quality of these photographs, each made up of over one billion pixels, grants visitors unprecedented access to some of VMFA’s most treasured works by allowing them to zoom in on the details–right down to the cracks in the paint. It is, as Google describes it, “…the closest thing to walking up to the real thing with a magnifying glass.”

The partnership between VMFA and Google began in 2015 when the museum joined the Google Art Project as part of ARTShare, an ambitious open-access initiative that aims to expand opportunities for digital learning and outreach at the museum. Currently, a total of 234 high-resolution images from VMFA’s collection are available on the Art Project site. The museum is also exploring further opportunities for collaboration with the company, including the implementation of Google Gallery View, which would allow visitors to take a virtual tour of the museum.

All of these efforts are aimed at creating a more accessible VMFA, ensuring that the museum’s remarkable collection can be enjoyed anywhere, by anyone, at any time. To that end, the Art Camera provides an incredible boost, enabling visitors, both on-site and online, to engage with the collection in dynamic new ways. Art lovers can now explore their favorite works in stunning detail. Artists can study the techniques of their predecessors down to individual brushstrokes. For scholars like Dr. Mitchell Merling, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, the Art Camera is a powerful new research tool:

“As a curator, I was totally committed to the accessibility of the Google Art Project, which brought so many different kinds of art to so many people, to everyone,” said Dr. Merling. “Now I am even more excited by the Google Art Camera, which has brought me an entirely new way to see works with which I thought I was completely familiar.”

The Art Camera provides yet another way for VMFA to share its collection with the world while also ensuring the preservation of fragile masterpieces for future generations to enjoy. The museum looks forward to exploring even more open-access opportunities in the coming years.

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
VMFA’s permanent collection encompasses more than 35,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of world history. Its collections of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, English silver, Fabergé, and the art of South Asia are among the finest in the nation. With acclaimed holdings in American, British Sporting, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist, and Modern and Contemporary art – and additional strengths in African, Ancient, East Asian, and European – VMFA ranks as one of the top comprehensive art museums in the United States. Programs include educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus lively after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops, and lectures across the Commonwealth. VMFA, a certified Virginia Green attraction, is open 365 days a year and general admission is always free. For additional information, telephone 804-340-1400 or visit www.vmfa.museum.

# # #

Press Contacts:
Sam Campbell, Digital Content Specialist
sam.campbell@vmfa.museum | 804-204-2770
Allan Altholz, Marketing Director
allan.altholz@vmfa.museum | 804-204-2721

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond VA 23220-4007

Image Credit: The Abundance of Nature, ca. 1855, Severin Roesen (American, born Germany, 1816–ca. 1872), oil on canvas. J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art, 2002.558