Tag Archives: Arts & Culture

Preserving endangered wonders of the world, for generations to come

When Ben Kacyra watched on TV as the Taliban destroyed 1,500 year-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001, he felt compelled to do something. Mr. Kacyra, who happens to be one of the creators of the world's first three-dimensional laser scanning system, realized that his technology could be used to record monuments at risk of damage due to natural disasters, war, or tourism, so that they could be preserved for future generations.

He founded CyArk, a non-profit that has created the world’s largest and most detailed 3D digital archive of endangered wonders of the world—a lasting record of monuments at risk of disappearing. Now, Google Arts & Culture has partnered with CyArk to open up access to their virtual wonders and share their stories with everyone.

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The Ananda Ok Kyaung temple, in Bagan, Myanmar remains closed to visitors due to the damage from a 2016 earthquake. You can now virtually step inside and discover its famous wall paintings.

With modern technology, we can capture these monuments in fuller detail than ever before, including the color and texture of surfaces and the geometry captured by laser scanners with millimeter precision in 3D. These detailed scans can also be used to identify areas of damage and assist restoration efforts.

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Eim Ya Kyaung in Bagan, Myanmar. The temple was built in 1242 and was damaged by an earthquake.

The image above shows a structure in Bagan, Myanmar, where a 2016 earthquake damaged many of the city’s famous temples. Before disaster struck however, CyArk’s team had scanned and photographed the site—inside and outside, from the ground and from above. Using the data they collected, we reconstructed Bagan’s key monuments in 3D so you can now travel through this breathtaking place and even step inside the temples using a computer, smartphone or virtual reality viewer like Daydream.

As part of this new online exhibition you can explore stories from over 25 iconic locations across 18 countries around the world, including the Al Azem Palace in war-torn Damascus, Syria and the ancient Mayan metropolis of Chichen Itza in Mexico. For many of the sites, we also developed intricate 3D models that allow you to inspect from every angle, using the new Google Poly 3D viewer on Google Arts & Culture.

Scroll through some of the iconic locations:


Over the past seven years, we’ve partnered with 1,500 museums in over 70 countries to bring their collections online and put more of the world’s culture at your fingertips. This project marks a new chapter for Google Arts & Culture, as it’s the first time we’re putting 3D heritage sites on the platform.

To help the work of restorers, researchers, educators and the entire community working to preserve our cultural heritage, we’re opening up access to the source data collected by CyArk from around the world. Now anyone can apply to download the data, with the help of the Google Cloud Platform.

You don’t need to be an archaeologist to uncover fascinating details in this collection! Discover Google Arts & Culture’s "Open Heritage” project online—or download our free app for iOS or Android.

Monet was here: Masterpieces and inspirations come to Google Arts & Culture

Art lovers and historians know that sometimes to comprehend the magnitude of an artwork, you need to see the world through the eyes of the artist and understand what inspired them. This is especially true of an artist as talented and beloved as Claude Monet, whose work many of us know but may not have considered in depth. To reveal these insights, the National Gallery London is opening a new exhibition entitled The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Monet and Architecture. This new show will open up a new window into Claude Monet’s world through the cities and buildings that brought his masterpieces to life.

And to mark the opening of the physical exhibition in London, you can now explore a selection of these works from the National Gallery, and see a stirring retrospective of Monet’s paintings from 17 more museums around the world, online on Google Arts & Culture.

Written by curators from the National Gallery, the online exhibition will feature new original stories about Monet, with little-known details of his travels through London, Paris, Rouen and Venice. For example, records show that Monet loved beautiful cities, appreciated architecture, and had a surprisingly great affinity for fog. This can be seen in much of his work, such as where he depicted the view of the Charing Cross Bridge from his suite in the Savoy Hotel in London.

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You can also immerse yourself in new, ultra high-resolution imagery of many of Monet’s masterpieces, such as The Water Lily Pondand The Thames Below Westminster. This perspective lets you zoom up close to the works and view every subtle brushstroke, then step back in the digital space to see how these bursts of color create a complete view of the cityscapes that inspired him.

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And with Google Earth’s Voyager, both in-person patrons of the National Gallery and virtual visitors to the site can journey across Europe, following in Monet’s footsteps via his paintings. You can also see where his works are at present day—possible destinations for your next in-person or online art journey.

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Start your travels with Monet and check out more The National Gallery collections online with Google Arts & Culture and on our iOS and Android apps.

Machine learning meets culture

Whether helpingphysicians identify disease orfinding photos of “hugs,” AI is behind a lot of the work we do at Google. And at our Arts & Culture Lab in Paris, we’ve been experimenting with how AI can be used for the benefit of culture. Today, we’re sharing our latest experiments—prototypes that build on seven years of work in partnership the 1,500 cultural institutions around the world. Each of these experimental applications runs AI algorithms in the background to let you unearth cultural connections hidden in archives—and even find artworks that match your home decor.

Art Palette

From interior design to fashion, color plays a fundamental role in expression, communicating personality, mood and emotion. Art Palette lets you choose a color palette, and using a combination of computer vision algorithms, it matches artworks from cultural institutions from around the world with your selected hues. See how Van Gogh's Irises share a connection of color with a 16th century Iranian folio and Monet’s water lilies. You can also snap a photo of your outfit today or your home decor and can click through to learn about the history behind the artworks that match your colors.


Watch how legendary fashion designer, Sir Paul Smith uses Art Palette:
The art of color: Paul Smith experiences Art Palette #GoogleArts

Giving historic photos a new lease on LIFE

Beginning in 1936, LIFE Magazine captured some of the most iconic moments of the 20th century. In its 70-year-run, millions of photos were shot for the magazine, but only 5 percent of them were published at the time. 4 million of those photos are now available for anyone to look through. But with an archive that stretches 6,000 feet (about 1,800 meters) across three warehouses, where would you start exploring? The experiment LIFE Tags uses Google’s computer vision algorithm to scan, analyze and tag all the photos from the magazine’s archives, from the A-line dress to the zeppelin. Using thousands of automatically created labels, the tool turns this unparalleled record of recent history and culture into an interactive web of visuals everyone can explore. So whether you’re looking for astronauts, an Afghan Hound or babies making funny faces, you can navigate the LIFE Magazine picture archive and find them with the press of a button.

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Identifying MoMA artworks through machine learning

Starting with their first exhibition in 1929, The Museum of Modern Art in New York took photos of their exhibitions. While the photos documented important chapters of modern art, they lacked information about the works in them. To identify the art in the photos, one would have had to comb through 30,000 photos—a task that would take months even for the trained eye. The tool built in collaboration with MoMA did the work of automatically identifying artworks—27,000 of them—and helped turn this repository of photos into an interactive archive of MoMA’s exhibitions.
Identifying art through machine learning with the MoMA #GoogleArts

We unveiled our first set of experiments that used AI to aid cultural discoveries in 2016. Since then we’ve collaborated with institutions and artists, including stage designer Es Devlin, who created an installation for the Serpentine Galleries in London that uses machine learning to generate poetry.  We hope these experimental applications will not only lead you to explore something new, but also shape our conversations around the future of technology, its potential as an aid for discovery and creativity.

You can try all our experiments at g.co/artsexperiments or through the free Google Arts & Culture app for iOS and Android.

With just a flick of a wand, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” is on Google Arts & Culture

For Harry Potter’s fellow students at Hogwarts, “A History of Magic” is historian Bathilda Bagshot’s legendary chronicle of Wizarding history. And last year, we mere Muggles got our own version. “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” is an exhibition from the British Library containing rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic from across the world, which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.


Turns out, the exhibition was more popular than the Three Broomsticks on a cold day … it quickly sold out. To bring the Harry Potter magic to more fans around the world, hundreds of the exhibition’s treasures from London as well as 15 online exhibits are now available in six languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Hindi and Brazilian Portuguese, and more coming soon) on Google Arts & Culture.

These examples shed light on what you’ll see in the exhibit. Lumos!

The British Library exhibit has proven that “interest in magic is a real global phenomenon, and has fascinated people for thousands of years,” says Julian Harrison, Lead Curator for Medieval Historical Manuscripts and “Harry Potter: A History of Magic.”

“The British Library is thrilled that our blockbuster ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ exhibition can now be viewed on Google Arts & Culture. We’ve used medieval manuscripts, precious printed books and Chinese oracle bones to explore magical traditions, from the making of potions to the harvesting of poisonous plants, and from the study of the night sky to the uses of unicorns.”

To explore these magical traditions for yourself, check out The British Library collections online with Google Arts & Culture and on our iOS and Android apps.

Celebrating Black history in our lives today

Growing up, Black history lessons in school were limited to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver and Harriet Tubman. It wasn’t until I found my local public library—and with guidance from friendly librarians—that I began to understand the full breadth and depth of the impact of Africans in America. As a little Black girl growing up in white suburban Maryland, these lessons at the library, reinforced by conversations with my parents, were necessary to shaping a healthy identity as a Black woman.

As I studied my history, I learned that Harriet Tubman overcame her small stature and birth into slavery as, not only a brilliant conductor on the Underground Railroad, but a strategist who led the first military maneuver executed by an American woman. I learned that Jesse Owensovercame his childhood as a sickly sharecropper’s son to become an Olympic gold medalist. I learned that Black Americans in the South left what was familiar to migrate by the millions toward opportunity in the North, Midwest and West Coast. And I fell in love with the poems of Langston Hughes, who articulated the pain and the beauty of the Black experience in words that perfectly expressed what I had—until then—only felt.

Today there are more resources than ever to understand and feel empowered by the lessons of the past. To make these resources available to everyone, Google Arts and Culture is adding to its extensiveonline collection of Black History and Culture. We’ve worked with cultural institutions across America to preserve and showcase artifacts, art, documents and stories honoring the legacy of Black Americans. And as a part of the collection, influencers pay homage to the historical icons and moments that inspire them today. Check out what Nas has to say about how his father and jazz music impacted his life:

Beyond the Arts and Culture collection, here are a few other ways our products are honoring Black history:

  • In a special video series, YouTube creators talk about the individuals creating Black history today. 
  • Learn from your Google Assistant. Just say, “Hey Google, share a story about Black history.” 
  • Take a journey in VR with Black history lessons in Google Expeditions.
  • Listen a YouTube playlist oficonic Motown artists curated by influencers like Lebron James, Bethann Hardison, Morgan DeBaun, Mellody Hobson, Veronica Webb and Van Jones.
  • Search “Black History Month” on Google and see posts by verified organizations like the NAACP.

We’ll share more about Black history on Google Arts and Culture throughout the month. If you’re a cultural organization that features Black history collections, reach out to Google Arts and Culture via this form—we’re always looking to expand the range of works of art, archives and stories available on our platform.

Exploring art (through selfies) with Google Arts & Culture

The Google Arts & Culture platform hosts millions of artifacts and pieces of art, ranging from prehistory to the contemporary, shared by museums across the world. But the prospect of exploring all that art can be daunting. To make it easier, we dreamt up a fun solution: connect people to art by way of a fundamental artistic pursuit, the search for the self … or, in this case, the selfie.

We created an experiment that matches your selfie with art from the collections of museums on Google Arts & Culture—and over the past few days, people have taken more than 30 million selfies. Even if your art look-alike is a surprise, we hope you discover something new in the process. (By the way, Google doesn't use your selfie for anything else and only keeps it for the time it takes to search for matches.)

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That’s me, Michelle, the product manager for this feature!

We're so happy people are enjoying their selfie matches, but we're even happier that people haven't stopped with the selfie. They’ve jumped—face first—into the 6,000 exhibitions hosted on Google Arts & Culture, from more than 1,500 museum partners from 70 countries, to explore their artwork and learn about their stories.


Here are some of the most-visited works of art people explored while searching with their selfies:

And we hope you’ll keep exploring. There’s so much to see on Google Arts & Culture, from the annals of American Democracy and the rich history of Latino cultures in the U.S., to the wide world of Street Art and the intricacies of Japanese crafts and traditions. You can visit the rooftop of the Taj Mahal or the famous castles of France's Loire Valley or even tour the United States’ National Parks, all from a mobile device. We also recommend checking out the stories behind what you wear—this collection lets you browse more than 30,000 pieces from 3,000 years fashion history: try searching for hats and sort them by color or sort shoes by time. So cool.

At Google Arts & Culture, our software engineers are always experimenting with new and creative ways to connect you with art and culture. That’s how this selfie feature came about, too. We know there’s great demand to improve and expand the selfie-matching feature to more locations, including outside the U.S., and we’ll share more news as soon as we have it. We’ll continue to partner with more museums to bring diverse cultures from every part of the world online (any museum can join!), so you can explore their stories and find even more portraits.

In the meantime, you can download the Google Arts & Culture app for iOS or Android and get face to face  with art!

With Tilt Brush, an artist turns his virtual world into reality

Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from British portrait painter Jonathan Yeo.

From photography to the printing press, to modern computing, art and technology have always influenced one another. And the artist’s toolkit is expanding with new mediums like virtual reality. As a portrait artist who primarily works with oil paint in two dimensions, drawing in three- dimensional space was unknown territory for me. Until recently, I’ve never created art using VR technology, but with Google Arts and Culture and the help of Tilt Brush engineers, I brought VR and sculpture together to create something that was more than just an experiment.

From Virtual to Reality: The world's first large scale, 3D printed sculpture

This week at the Royal Academy in London, I’m unveiling a metal sculpture l created using Tilt Brush’s unique “brushstrokes.” This is part of the Royal Academy’s “From Life” exhibition, which opens on the eve of their 250th anniversary, and explores the history of life drawing—the practice of drawing from live models.  

Using advanced 3D scanning and Tilt Brush technology, I was able to virtually sculpt “from life.” I first scanned my head using LightStage (facial-scanning technology from the optical company OTOY), then imported this into Tilt Brush and began painting my self-portrait with a virtual brush. This was then 3D printed directly from Tilt Brush and cast in bronze at Pangolin, one of the world’s leading foundries.

Using virtual reality, I could explore sculpting using the skills developed in my painting practice and within my own studio environment. What’s really exciting is how the final bronze structure precisely captures the free, expressive movements that were previously only possible in paintings. The result is a hybrid of painting and virtual creation, and could open up a world of possibilities for other artists to experiment and take this new medium much further.

Jonathan Yeo’s artwork, “Homage to Paolozzi (Self Portrait),” will be exhibited in From Life at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, which runs from December 11, 2017 - March 11, 2018.

The British Museum and Google Arts & Culture: Decoding the secrets of the ancient Maya

In the 19th century, the explorer Alfred Maudslay set out to capture and preserve the stories the Maya of Central America, one of the largest and most successful indigenous cultures in the world, with more than 2000 years of rich and vibrant history. For decades, he travelled through the region carrying tons of equipment on mule trains through the jungle and created the first glass plate photographs and plaster casts of some of the most important ancient Maya art from the region.

More than 100 years later, Google Arts & Culture and the British Museum are picking up where Maudslay left off. Now, visitors from around the world can explore the Maya’s rich heritage online and learn about their achievements in art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics and language.

In a new set of exhibits, you can rotate incredibly detailed 3D models of ancient Maya art, take 360 virtual tours of the ancient sites of Tikal and Quirigua, and dive into numerous multimedia exhibits and 12 magical Street View panoramas of ancient sites and museums across Guatemala. Here are just a few things you can discover about one of the largest indigenous American populations, who their ancestors were, and what we can learn from them today:

We’re proud to have partnered together to bring stories of this important civilization online, while digitally preserving them for the future. The British Museum collections can be viewed online with Google Arts & Culture and on our iOS and Android apps.

Defying gravity: an epic stunt at the Guggenheim Bilbao

When the Guggenheim Bilbao museum opened 20 years ago it was described by many as a starship from outer space. Its swirling roof is made of paper-thin titanium tiles—33,000 of them—covering the building like fish scales. At the time, it was such a novelty that the museum had to commission a chemical laboratory to produce a custom liquid to clean the titanium!

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Guggenheim Bilbao (photo by Trashhand)

The museum was an unusual experiment not just because of its gleaming shell. Over two decades ago, following the collapse of the traditional industries Bilbao was built on, the city was scarred with industrial wastelands, abandoned factories, and a community afflicted by unemployment and social tensions. Bilbao surprised the world (and raised a few eyebrows) with a unique idea to kickstart the city's regeneration, and they set out to build—not new factories or new roads—but instead a new center for modern art.


Since then, the museum has attracted 19 million visitors and became the epicenter of the urban renewal that rippled through Bilbao. Today it stands as an icon of the city and its successful self-transformation. To celebrate the Guggenheim's 20th anniversary, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the museum to bring their stories to you and show it from a new angle.


But how do you find a new angle on one of the world's most photographed buildings? Google invited Johan Tonnoir—known for running and jumping across Paris's busy rooftops with only a pair of sturdy shoes—to the Guggenheim.

Johan explored the building in his own way … through a breathtaking stunt-run across the building and its iconic slippery roof. He climbed to the highest peak and jumped, flipped and leapt from one wing of the roof to the other at 50 meters high. And all along, urban photographer Trashhand from Chicago followed him with his lens.

Check out the museum’s masterpieces on Google Arts & Culture (but please don't try to do it Johan's way…). You can see all this online at g.co/guggenheimbilbao or in the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android.

Defying gravity: an epic stunt at the Guggenheim Bilbao

When the Guggenheim Bilbao museum opened 20 years ago it was described by many as a starship from outer space. Its swirling roof is made of paper-thin titanium tiles—33,000 of them—covering the building like fish scales. At the time, it was such a novelty that the museum had to commission a chemical laboratory to produce a custom liquid to clean the titanium!

GOOGLE.TRASHHAND-14.JPG
Guggenheim Bilbao (photo by Trashhand)

The museum was an unusual experiment not just because of its gleaming shell. Over two decades ago, following the collapse of the traditional industries Bilbao was built on, the city was scarred with industrial wastelands, abandoned factories, and a community afflicted by unemployment and social tensions. Bilbao surprised the world (and raised a few eyebrows) with a unique idea to kickstart the city's regeneration, and they set out to build—not new factories or new roads—but instead a new center for modern art.


Since then, the museum has attracted 19 million visitors and became the epicenter of the urban renewal that rippled through Bilbao. Today it stands as an icon of the city and its successful self-transformation. To celebrate the Guggenheim's 20th anniversary, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the museum to bring their stories to you and show it from a new angle.


But how do you find a new angle on one of the world's most photographed buildings? Google invited Johan Tonnoir—known for running and jumping across Paris's busy rooftops with only a pair of sturdy shoes—to the Guggenheim.

Johan explored the building in his own way … through a breathtaking stunt-run across the building and its iconic slippery roof. He climbed to the highest peak and jumped, flipped and leapt from one wing of the roof to the other at 50 meters high. And all along, urban photographer Trashhand from Chicago followed him with his lens.

Check out the museum’s masterpieces on Google Arts & Culture (but please don't try to do it Johan's way…). You can see all this online at g.co/guggenheimbilbao or in the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android.