The Arts Manager's Guide to Google's Art & Culture App

Licensed by  Wikimedia Commons

Licensed by Wikimedia Commons

Google has taken another step in fulfilling its mission of organizing "the world's information" and making it "universally accessible and useful" by launching a new app, "Google Arts & Culture". The app has many innovative features, allowing viewers to explore art through virtual immersive experiences and offering access to thousands of photos, videos and virtual tours. The app was developed by the Google Cultural Institute, a not-for-profit initiative that offers a platform for others to join and share new ways to experience art through a variety of technologies.  

Are you interested in having your cultural organization join the app? Here's what you need to know:

How can I sign up for the Google Cultural Institute? 

  1. Confirm that you are a non-profit institution, a museum, a gallery or archives with copy-rights-free or copyright-cleared content.
  2. Fill out the relevant form. If found eligible, Google will send you a follow up email. 
  3. Next, you will receive an email from Google where you can follow the Step by Step guide that will enable you to set up an account, upload your content, use Google’s publishing tools to best exhibit your content and set up Google Analytics.  Click here to get more information about Google Analytics.

Why would I, as an arts manager, partner with Google Cultural Institute? 

  1. To make your art readily accessible to anyone with internet access.
  2. To leverage Google’s available publication technology, free of charge. After uploading the content, creating, and previewing your virtual exhibition, you have many useful publishing options. One of these options includes access to the tools to create a website for free in order to display the exhibits you would like to showcase.
  3. To share your content via a mobile application (Android and iOS), Google handles the app development and you can choose the content to be displayed on the app. At the time of publishing, this feature is not yet available for all partners.
  4. To increase your exposure. Some partners have the opportunity to share their content on Google’s Cultural Institute website, and now on Google Arts & Culture app which offers many interesting features for both art managers and viewers.

What relevant features does the Google Arts & Culture App offer me and my patrons and how well do they work?

The app collects the works of more than 1,000 museums across 70 countries. Users can search artwork in the menu by keywords, artists, mediums, art movements, historical movements, historical figures, and places. Once the user clicks on a specific piece of artwork, they can find the title, artist, date and where it is currently situated.  They can also add it to your favorites, create a virtual collection or share it via social media. An interesting feature that is not obvious when manipulating the app consist of filtering art through a timeframe or colors.  Once the user clicks on one of the options mentioned above, they can find two symbols: a clock (timeframe filter) and an art palette (color filter). This feature allows users to view paintings were made during the same timeframe, for example.

Google Art & Culture also makes it easy to glance at an artist's line of work even if the artwork is situated in different parts of the world. For instance, the app demonstrates how Van Gogh's works went from gloomy to vivid

Special Projects via Virtual Reality

Perhaps the most innovative feature is the online exhibitions, that integrates virtual reality technology to bring users to a different location or in another time period in history. 

Users can find Google expeditions on the Art & Culture app. Expeditions are a combination of Virtual Reality content and supporting materials.  Google's aim is to offer teachers and students the chance to travel and to explore museums virtually while integrating educational material in line with the curriculum. In order to fulfill its mission, Google has partnered with more than fifty natural history institutions and worked with ecologists, paleontologists and biologists from around the world. One project has been to put virtual skin and flesh on preserved skeletons.  Through the Natural History Project section of the app, users are redirected to YouTube, where for example, they can view videos of recreated dinosaurs, and can turn their phones from one direction to another to follow the dinosaur's path. Taking this functionality one step further, the user can use a virtual reality viewer, such as Google Cardboard, for a truly immersive experience.  

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Virtual tours

The app gives users the opportunity to virtually view nearly 2,500 locations including the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, iconic buildings such as the Sydney Opera House, temples like the Daigo-Ti Temple, street art and more. There is also the option of experiencing specific exhibitions at a 360 degree angle.

The Virtual tour section layout of the app appears to be in a development. Once the user clicks on "Virtual tours", the app opens a new page with the title "2489 museum views" (as mentioned before, not all of these places are museums). Below, a long list of places seem to be arranged in no logical order ranging from the Polish Museum in Rapperswill, Switzerland to Open Walls in Baltimore, then over to Cape Town before coming back to Baltimore again. Even though there is a search option,  it is time-consuming and can be difficult at times to scroll through the long list of places. 

Another issue with this feature is that the user can't zoom in on an artwork during the virtual tour. The piece of art is far away, making it hard to fully appreciate the art or to read the information placed next to it.  Although there is the ability to search the artwork in the app, the user must quit the virtual tour and type in a keyword related to the art, assuming they are able to distinguish the artwork or some piece of information on it.  

Here is an example of the closest you can get to the artwork through Virtual tours:

Art recognizer

The Google Art & Culture app is also offering a new feature that provides information on an artwork simply by pointing your camera at it. This feature is limited for now, as it's only applicable at London's Dulwich Picture Gallery, Sydney's Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

Daily News

Users can discover something new every day about an artist, a movement, or unique subject in art. For example, why did men wear heels throughout history? Click here to find out why the Daily Digest

The Google Arts & Culture app is available on iOS and Android, and is a valuable and easy way for arts managers to get their content online to share with both current and interested virtual patrons around the world.