Google Cultural Institut has 4m+ images online for free

I can spend the rest of my life exploring this site„, Russian New Media theorist Lev Manovich expressed his excitement via his Facebook page (In case you’re interested in New Media and Digital arts/humanities: Yes, this is a Facebook-Follow recommendation).

Google Cultural Institut

Google Cultural Institute basically is an incredibly huge collection of images. Cultural institutions all over the world share their collections, artworks, photos and other pictures with the public via the digital platform Google has been working on since 2011. It also provides open access to well curated historic narratives and specific sites. There is the possibility to create your own galleries with your Google account by draw-and-dropping images from featured or other users‘ galleries to yours. Among the featured galleries (f.ex. „Black History and Culture“ or „Women in Culture„) is one that specially caught my eye.

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The Performing Arts

The Performing Arts section includes 71 collections, 33 of them leading to official museums‘ collections. The Festival d’Avignon for example lets me in on the becoming of 2015’s new opera Le Monstre du Labyrinthe. I can see a selection of the sheet music, high quality pictures of the stage and costume, profile pictures of the artistic staff as well as interview text and descriptive text about the opera and it’s creation process. You can hear the director talk about her work and see short videos (image films, interviews, rehearsals).

It’s like a very well designed, incredibly advanced, easily accessible, free playbill!

The National Theater in London „exhibits“ collections about specific sub-topics of the performing arts, such as Black Plays at the National Theater 1976-2014 or Staging Children’s Stories at the National Theater 1983-2013. As far as I can see, at this moment the Burgtheater Vienna is unrepresented at Google Cultural Institute, as is every German theater house I looked up. The Berlin State Opera and the Berliner Philhamoniker stand all alone. Well presented are English-speaking theaters and Eastern European theater houses.

Criticism

All of this is highly useful for intellectual research, creative browsing or educative purposes. What you cannot do with Google Cultural Institute’s collections is copy or download any of it’s content. This means you can only use it when you can access a stable and not too shabby internet connection.

The mayor criticism – as far as I see it – equals the common criticism of Google Inc.’s  world-wide monopoly. Just like with Google Books it is great to use an easily and freely accessible digital environment, but we have to keep an alternative to Google strong and alive. There is enough literature reminding us that behind the glorious strive for democratization concerning the access to fine art and products of „high culture“ there stands a capitalist company that aims for monetary profit and not for free people and world-wide equality.


 

Images: Screenshots from Google Cultural Institute/Le Monstre du Labyrinthe.

Learn more: Google Cultural Institute/About

 

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