Website Wednesday: Google Cultural Institute Brings Art Up Close

by Kristie Burk

When I was a student at Providence College, all undergraduates had to take four semesters of a course called “The Development of Western Civilization.” It was team-taught by professors of literature, history, philosophy, science, theology, music and art history who took an interdisciplinary approach to teaching way before it was “cool” to do so.

Through that class, I was encouraged to look at art and music as a reflection of the history of the time.  (Sidebar: I will never forget one of my exam questions that asked me to describe how the architecture of the Middle Ages reflected what was happening politically at the time. That one still hurts.)

If you are an art or music teacher or if you want to try to give your students a similar experience of incorporating the arts into your content area, check out the Google Cultural Institute.  The website was designed to provide millions of artifacts in a virtual museum as well as live performances of opera, dance, theater and performance art. And before you send me an email – I know that nothing can beat the experience of seeing art up close.  However, this website offers some great features:

  • One of my favorite features of the site is the ability to zoom in thisclose to the artwork to see the details.  Try doing that in the Guggenheim!
  • My second favorite feature is the ability to create your own “collections.” This could be extremely useful for teachers who want to show artwork that is currently housed in different museums.  Students can also make their own collections based on a theme  or a time period, for example.
  • You can tour parts of the museum that may have previously been unavailable.
  • A newer feature of the Google Cultural Institute is the ability to watch live performances. You can join musical performances from Carnegie Hall or watch a production from the American Ballet Theatre – and it’s all in 360 degrees!
  • Because the site is from Google, there are amazing features to help you search by museum, by geographic location, by artist, and more.
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