I love museums of any kind. Ok, except Modern Art. Although I try, I just don't get most of it. Yesterday I heard about yet another Google tool, the Art Project. This site is fascinating. It combines the ease of traveling around in Google Earth with close ups of masterpieces from around the world. I really shouldn't have been surprised by this project having stumbled across and explored museums in Google Earth previously (Louvre). The beauty of this site lies in it's simplicity. The background of the screen is a constantly changing array of artwork from the collections with only half of the screen initially dedicated to menus and instructions. The focus is quite obviously on the art, not a cluttered web site. There are drop down menus to select the museum, then the user chooses to "view artwork" or "explore the museum". Each piece of artwork is accompanied by notes on the piece, artist information, additional works by the artist (all with images), and the history of the ownership of the piece. Each museum has an interactive floor plan, links to the museum page, the history of the museum and location on Google Maps, of course. It is hard to decide if the "street view" stroll down the museum halls or the ability to zoom in to examine the finest brush strokes is the more engaging experience.
For those who desire a little more assistance, there are two beginner videos (Visitor Guide and Behind the Scenes) that are linked from YouTube. The behind the scenes one is merely a 2 minute or so montage of museums included in the project and Google staff members photographing, but it is still informative and makes one a little jealous of the participants.