Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Google Cultural Institute

Google Street View Trekker walks through Qld Museum. Source: ABC News. Photo: Giulio Saggin.

Emma Pollard, Australian museum and galleries gets virtual tour treatment from Google Street View technology, ABC News, 10 March 2015

Some of Australia’s greatest cultural institutions have been digitally preserved through detailed virtual tours to educate and inspire future generations as part of a special Google initiative.

The technology giant has taken its Street View technology off road to capture 360-degree panoramic images of select galleries and museums in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

It is all part of the Google Cultural Institute – an effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone for years to come.

The technology has already been used to capture natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, and some of the world’s great cultural institutions, including the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Google marketing coordinator Veril Sjarif said a special backpack with 15 cameras taking a panoramic image every three to five metres was used to capture the museum.

“It does the same thing as street view imagery, but indoors, so it will still have the navigational arrows and all that to go through the museum, so it will do a virtual tour,” Mr Sjarif said.

Queensland Museum chief executive professor Suzanne Miller said the museum was one of 14 Australian institutions approached by the Google Cultural Institute.

“Staying relevant with the latest technology is a fabulous thing to do, most museums can’t afford to do that on their own quite frankly,” Professor Miller said.

“We have 15 million objects in our collection so what you can see physically on the floor is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s probably the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

“You can get up really close to artefacts, items, scientific specimens and then really drill down and get as much information as you need from those objects – so you create your own tour.”

The Queensland Museum has the highest visitor numbers for an Australian museum, with about 1 million people attending annually.

Professor Miller said she now expected millions more to see its collection online.

“The more you put online the more we find people want to connect with the real thing, so putting more out there online tends to drive visitation and we’re certainly seeing that,” she said.

Also photographed for the Google Cultural Institute were the National Museum of Australia and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Virtual visitors have a choice of six Street View options from the Australian War Memorial and can explore the Hall of Memory and the commemorative area.

They can also take a look inside the memorial’s Centurion Tank, “G for George” Avro Lancaster Bomber and other exhibits.

At the National Museum, Google captured 7,000 square metres of the institution’s galleries and collections, complete with links connecting virtual visitors to detailed information on more than 125 individual items.

National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said the project allowed the museum to showcase its collections to a global audience, alongside other cultural institutions from around the world.

“(It is) the opportunity to reach even broader audiences both in Australia and overseas by offering digital exhibitions and tours to people who cannot visit our Canberra site,” he said.

The National Portrait Gallery, Sydney’s Powerhouse, Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image and Public Records Office Victoria were also captured using the special cameras.

Australian institutions in the Google Cultural Institute
(* indicates existing members)

NATIONAL

  • Australian War Memorial (including Street View tour)
  • National Gallery of Australia*
  • 
National Museum of Australia (including Street View tour)
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

NSW

  • Art Gallery of NSW*
  • Kaldor Public Art Projects
*
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Australia*
  • 
Powerhouse (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences)
  • State Library of NSW
  • Australian Museum
Biennale of Sydney (StreetView tour of Cockatoo Island 2014 venue)
  • Bondi’s Sculpture by the Sea (StreetView tour)

SA

  • Art Gallery of South Australia*

QLD

  • Australian Rock Art (Griffith University)*
  • Queensland Museum (including Street View tour)
  • 
Queensland Performing Arts Centre

VIC

  • Museum Victoria*
  • Monash University, Faculty of IT*
  • 
National Gallery of Victoria*
  • Public Records Office Victoria (Victorian Archives Centre)
  • 
Australian Centre for the Moving Image

See also:

ANMM Blog, Sharing the collection on Google Cultural Institute, 4 March 2015

David Ellery, Google Trekker documents Australian War Memorial in cultural project The Canberra Times, 3 March 2015

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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