One of the longstanding promises of the Internet–of the last century’s worth of technology, really–is that the cultural heritage of the world will be accessible to everyone in their homes. Today, the global museum has taken another step forward with Google Art Project.

An ingenious application of Google’s Street View and Picasa tools, it allows web browsers to wander the halls of 17 museums around the world (New York City’s MoMA, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and others).

Some particularly significant artworks in each of the museums (about a thousand total, although more will apparently follow) can be viewed straight-on, in ultra-high resolution. In some cases, that just means a very tight close-up view; others are so detailed that you can make out the grain of individual brushstrokes–a closer view than you’d ever be able to get in person. There’s also explanatory text for the individually viewable works.
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