British Art Center pairs with Google on archive

The Yale Center for British Art announced Tuesday morning that, along with six other university museums, it will partner with Google to create a user-friendly international art database.

Launched as a small 17-museum archive in February 2011, Google Art Project will now expand to include artworks from 150 museums around the globe online, including the Yale Center for British Art. The British Art Center currently has over 5,500 images uploaded onto the database, more than any other museum participating, said Head of Collections Information and Access Matthew Hargraves, the British Art Center’s lead coordinator on the project.

The archive will augment the British Art Center’s existing online resources by allowing the user to browse through its online collections alongside works from 149 other museums around the world, Hargraves said.

“It lets people see our objects in a way beyond just the physical museum, which only a limited number of people around the world will be able to get to, but also beyond the confines of our own website and the limitations of that,” Hargraves said.

The new database will make browsing through the British Art Center’s vast collection easier for the average user, Hargraves said, adding that the creation of the current online collection was directed more toward art students and scholars. Through Google Art Project, users will be able to create and share their own virtual collections of art, Hargraves said, adding that advanced technology developed by Google, such as Google Goggle, will even allow viewers to take photographs of artwork and perform visual searches for information on the pieces through the database.

By allowing people virtual access to the museum’s collections, the British Art Center hopes to stimulate more interest in its numerous outreach and education programs, said Kaci Bayless, public relations coordinator for the Yale Center for British Art.

“In imagining how our [outreach] programs might be affected, one can envision school groups accessing the collections online now prior to a visit or immediately following,” Bayless said.

Participating in the Google database is part of the British Art Center’s larger scheme to increase accessibility to its collections, Yale Center for British Art Director Amy Meyers said. The British Art Center hopes to utilize Google’s national and international dissemination of information to attract more visitors, Meyers said.

“For the last year, in concert with Yale’s other collections of art and natural history, we have been engaged in developing a free and open-access program online,” Meyers said. “This is just one of the facets of that much broader University-wide endeavor.”

Since its initial launch, Google Art Project has gained over 20 million visitors to the site and 180,000 personal collections have been created, Piotr Adamczyk, head of data collection for the Google Art Project, said in an email.

“The key reason to continue is to further expand on the issue of access to art and museums, for those who currently cannot see all these amazing artworks,” Adamczyk said.

Other museums featured on Google Art Project include The Metropolitan Museum of art, Palace of Versailles and Tate Britain.

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