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Label: preservation

Wednesday 15th June 2016Google's Preservation of Artwork

Google, arguably one of the most successful technology companies of all time, has a lot of capital to invest. As a result, they have their fingers in a vast number of pies, from mobile phones to self-driving cars to scholarly article publishing. But one of their lesser-known ventures is the one that is probably nearest and dearest to those of us in the art world: the Google Cultural Institute.

The Cultural Institute has partnered with over 1000 museums and galleries around the world to digitise their artworks and bring them online, so they can be enjoyed by anyone with internet access. One of their best tactics for this is an incredibly high-resolution camera that is being used in the digitising process, and it just got a huge boost forwards in the last few months.

While having an initial burst of creativity during the launch of their search engine and naming it Google, the company has since gone rather literally-minded when it comes to naming their inventions (even their crazy balloon wireless internet project is called Project Loon, appropriately enough), which leaves us with the singularly uninspiring 'Art Camera'.

What IS inspiring, however, is how impressive it is when it comes to preserving images of some of the most popular artworks in the world. At first, the Cultural Institute was rather slow at digitising images, scanning and uploading just 200 images in five whole years. Admittedly, the images are measured in gigapixels rather than megapixels, but nevertheless, that's only about one image per week.

Suddenly in the last few months alone, over 1000 images have been scanned and made available to the general public, all thanks to the Art Camera system. The photographer/technician simply outlines the borders of the image for the system, and then the rest of the process is computer-controlled, stitching together hundreds of smaller photographers using the Google servers and outputting super-high-resolution images.

Marzia Niccolai, the Cultural Institute's technical program manager, explains, "The capture time has been reduced drastically. Previously it could take almost a day to capture an image. To give you an idea, now if you have a one meter by one meter painting, it would take 30 minutes."

Google has since constructed 20 separate Art Camera systems and is lending them out to various museums and archives around the world to dramatically increase its collection. Be sure to check out the website here: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/project/art-camera

Posted on June 15th 2016 on 01:57pm
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