World's museums go online with Google Street View

Art lovers will be able to stroll through some of the world's most acclaimed galleries at the click of a mouse, after Google launched a website Tuesday using Street View technology to put the museums online.

In a joint project with 17 leading galleries in nine countries, the Internet giant has taken equipment from the cars it used to map cities around the world and recorded the galleries so they can be enjoyed by anyone with web access.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York, London's National Gallery and the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid are three of the galleries that art aficionados will be able to explore by logging on to www.googleartproject.com.

A sample of art works from each museum can be viewed online and each of the 17 galleries has photographed one super high-resolution image - each one contains around seven billion pixels.

This means visitors to the site can see details in pictures that were previously impossible to see with the naked eye, in works such as "The Merchant Georg Gisze" by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Other works to get the super high-resolution treatment include Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night" and "In the Conservatory" by Edouard Manet.

Over 1,000 more works have been photographed in high resolution for the project and 'hung' in the virtual galleries.

Nelson Mattos, vice president engineering at Google, said the project was another step towards democratisation of art.

"This really represents a new way and a major step forward in how a lot of people are going to interact with these beautiful treasures," he told a launch event at the Tate Britain gallery in London, one of the museums in the project.

"We hope it will inspire ever more people, wherever they live, to access and explore art," he added.

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