For the first time ever, Google street view will allow people to go inside some of the world’s most famous art galleries.
The National Gallery, Tate Britain, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Palace of Versailles in France are all set to be among the 17 museums which will allow users to take 360 degree virtual tours from their computers.
Each one of the museums will show a chosen a piece of art in very high resolution, reportedly “beyond what is possible with the naked eye”. Each painting will be made up of around seven billion pixels, allowing the pictures to be shown at detail that is 1,000 times clearer than a digital camera.
The piece selected by the Tate Britain is the The Ofili painting, which is famous for containing tiny images of London teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in 1993, within a woman’s teardrops.
Google enabled users to explore 385 gallery rooms in the same way their Street View allows people to virtually walk down streets.
Nelson Mattos, vice president of engineering at Google, said the project was ”a major step forward in the way people are going to interact with these major treasures”. He denied rumours that the virtual tours put the galleries at risk from potential art thieves “If you’re really thinking of stealing a painting, coming to the museum is probably the best way to check the security system.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson said the project was a “noble initiative (that) will give millions a unique chance to experience great art collections from around the world, from the comfort of their computer”.