History enthusiasts put off by the British Museum’s notorious crowds can now beat the crush by navigating the institution’s halls from the comfort of their own home.
Google has created Street View footage to allow people to explore all 85 galleries and the treasures they contain through the internet. It is the largest indoor space captured with the technology.
Neil MacGregor, the outgoing director of the British Museum, said it would not replace going to the museum but offer a different experience and “allow you to see the collection more closely than if you visit on a busy Saturday.
“The museum was set up with an Enlightenment fantasy that it could be a museum for the whole world. This is a really big step in making an 18th-century dream a reality.”
It took 15 months to film the permanent galleries out of opening hours, during which time they had to replace many of the light bulbs to make sure the collection looked as good as possible.
The partnership with the Google Cultural Institute, a not-for-profit branch dedicated to digitally preserving cultural material, has also involved photographing nearly 5,000 objects for people to view closely online. “If you just put the objects up online, it’s a bit like a library catalogue,” Mr MacGregor said. “This allows people to wander around and explore them.” These include one of the museum’s most important Chinese scrolls, the Admonitions Scroll from the fourth century.