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Virtual museums

By Jennifer Guerra

Always wanted to check out the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, but couldn’t afford a ticket? Google’s new “Art Project,” launched earlier this month, allows people to virtually explore some of the most famous art museums in the world. Could this be the future of art museums? Actually, the future is here, says U-M’s Joseph Rosa.

You can take 360-degree tours inside the museums. On select paintings, you can zoom in so close as to see cracks, lines and brushstrokes.

Of the 17 museums included in the project, 13 are in Europe. The remaining museums are in New York and Washington, D.C: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Frick Collection, and the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian.

Joseph Rosa (photo left) director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art thinks the project is a nice way to bring art to the general public, but he wishes more American museums were included. Rosa says Michigan, for example, has a lot offer –  from the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) in Detroit to the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) in Grand Rapids, and he adds that UMMA has “the best collection of Korean art outside of Korea.”

Rosa says if UMMA was asked to participate in the Google Art Project, the first piece he’d include would be Picasso’s Young Woman with Mandolin:

“It’s amazing; one of his earliest paintings. And when people come to our website or friends and the first thing out of their mouth is: ‘You have that?’ And I don’t want that to be the response from people. They should be: ‘Wow, you have that! That’s fabulous.’ So for us it’s demystifying what a university art museum can be.”

The Google Art Project is in its pilot phase, and more museums may be added to the project in the future.

Jennifer Guerra covers arts and culture for Michigan Radio.