Bring the Masters Right into your Classroom with Google Arts & Culture

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Responding to art is an important process in an arts classroom and can be a valuable strategy when integrating art into other content areas.  But not all classrooms have collections of art prints like many art classrooms have.  

Some pieces of artwork have had a profound impact on me. Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” is one such image that, for me, epitomized the despair of people during the Great Depression.

This image resides in many art museums, one of which is the Minneapolis Institute of Art. So, as a resident of Minneapolis, I can see this image in person (if its currently being displayed). But there are lots of works of art that aren’t as accessible, that are housed in museums in Chicago or New York or even further away in England, Russia or beyond.  Now it’s possible to take your class on a virtual field trip to many of these museums thanks to the Google’s Arts and Culture, part of Google’s Cultural Institute.

Short history

Google started digitizing art collections in 2011 as part of an initiative known as the Google Art Project.  Within the first year it had assembled more than 30,000 high resolution images online from 17 museums from around the world including collections from the Art Institute in Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Tate Museum in England, and even the Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia. The following year Google opened a tandem project entitled the Cultural Institute whose mission was to apply new technologies to capture not just works of art, but other cultural artifacts, including photos, videos, and documents.

In December of 2015, Google combined the Cultural Institute collection with the Art Project and named it Google Arts and Culture, with a new interactive application for mobile devices.   

Here is a Youtube video that provides a nice overview of Google’s Arts and Culture.

Classroom application

Think about projecting a famous painting in your classroom, zooming in on sections to highlight details, and doing your very own visual thinking strategy with your class–as if you were standing in front of the piece of artwork in the museum.  Try using the Visual Thinking Strategies with your students as you are viewing the painting: “What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?  What more can we find?”

Equally cool, for some of the images in Google Arts and Culture, you can click on a street view icon and view the actual museum room to see how the art is displayed, and perhaps even more importantly, get a sense of its scale.  

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Check out this iconic Claude Monet painting, “The Water Lilies.”  How can you convey the size and scope of this piece of artwork? Take a look at the street view in the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris!

When you log into Google Arts and Culture with your Google login, you will be able to mark images as favorites and organize them into collections. In this way, you can share the url for you collection with your students so they can bring them up on their own devices and zoom in to view details up close in high resolution.

You won’t find every piece of artwork catalogued in Arts and Culture. In fact, if you are looking for a specific item, you will be better served by googling the title directly and searching more broadly.  What is unique to the Google project is that it provides high resolution images and draws upons cultural perspectives  from museums around the world.

Google Arts and Culture has so many features that I’m going to have to save exploring more of them for future blog posts right here in Making Connections.

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