Why Museums Are Granting Google Free Access to Their Collections

Google Cultural Institute recently revealed that it has engineered the creatively named Google Art Camera: a custom-built camera intended to capture “ultra-high resolution ‘gigapixel’ images” of artworks in museums around the world. It also sharedabout 1,000 of these photographs online that allow anyone with internet access to zoom in closely to examine the originals — or rather, representations of the originals — in staggering detail. This collection will continue to grow as Google plans to send its 20-strong camera convoy to museums around the world. It also means that Google is increasingly receiving and compiling a ton of data for free (it doesn’t pay the museums) — so we were curious: what are the benefits museums receive by showcasing their collections on another platform?

What is perhaps the most obvious answer is the one every museum representative I spoke with provided: that placing an institution’s artworks on Google grants museums’ collections much more visibility and public access — which, for many of them, constitutes a central objective.

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