Until now, anyone who aspired to be well versed in the artistic highlights of the world's great galleries required time, money and a penchant for air travel. Soon, they will need just a laptop.
Google, the company that has already made it possible to explore our planet from above and discover cities street by street, has announced a global expansion of its Art Project site, which allows users to go on a cultural grand tour without ever leaving their computer.
The site, which launched in February last year with just 1,000 works of art after being thought up by four UK-based engineers, has signed partnership deals with 151 new cultural locations across 40 countries. British institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Galleries of Scotland are among those that will allow Google to photograph their collections, bringing the number of works on the site to 30,000.
Some galleries will show photographs of the art, while others will allow visitors digitally to wander the halls using Google's Street View technology.
In total, 10 new UK galleries have signed up, joining the National Gallery and Tate Britain, which enlisted last year.
Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, praised the project as "a powerful example of how digital technology can help art institutions work in partnership to reach out globally to new audiences".
Other new British sites in the scheme include the Imperial War Museum, the Serpentine Gallery and the Royal Collection.
Jemima Rellie, director of publishing and new media for the Royal Collection, said the move was a "natural extension of our loans-and-exhibitions programme".
New galleries to sign up from around the world include the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, the Rock Art museum in South Africa and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.