Wednesday 14 January 2009

Nay, I say.

Hi there. I'm Best of 3. You might know me for my relentless support of such web phenomena as Flickr and Twitter.

Well, today I'm here to tell you that all the glistens on the web is not gold. There's a lot of hoo-ha on the wires this morning about the partnership between Google Earth and the Prado, which has resulted in 14,000 megapixel digital images of 14 of the Prado's key works being made available for intensely close-up viewing through Google Earth (which you need to download to access, so here's the link to do that).

The resolution of the images is beyond amazing; the white flecks of paint in the eyes of the Infanta in Las Meninas are easily visible, the flicks of apricot paint on the side of her cheek are centimetres long on my screen. But. It's only 14 works from the collection. There's no plan to digitise more at this level, or to work with other museums. I'm not even sure that the images are available on the Prado's own website (it's refusing to load this morning).

While I'm not as hung up as Jonathan Jones on the lack of the silvery light when you see the works in person, I'm going to favour standard digitisation and and easier method of access over extraneously high-quality, extremely limited digitisation every time.

However - the video recording how the images were made and stitched together is amazing. Enjoy (and I recommend on mute).


Anonymous said...

The Prado had 2652924 visitors in 2007. These works of art on Google Earth will have hundreds of millions. I'm very surprised you're decrying making an artwork accessible.

As I, along with a huge percentage of the world won't be getting to Spain any time soon, I think this is an amazing initiative. Seeing works in the flesh is one thing - but why should that be the only way someone gets to experience them? That makes high art only available to the wealthy or well-situated.

Details are important - especially in a Bosch. I'm thrilled Google & Prado are giving me a chance to see them.

Courtney Johnston said...

Hey Tiki East

Partly I was poking fun at my tendency to be over-enthusiastic about all web ventures. But I do hold to my point. While the super-hi-res images are lovely to play with, and the Google interface is nice to use, I'd hardly call this a big step forward in accessibility.

I just went to the Prado website - in the English version, the only link that's working is the 15 Masterpieces. These entries have nice little texts, a link (again, not working) to what appears to be more text, and a normal-sized, no-zoom image.

But that's only 15 works - and they're extremely well-known, and I could find this stuff anywhere on the web. I guess I'm more of an advocate for less high-spec mass digitisation that gets inaccessible content (like databases that aren't surfaced to search engines) online, and then improves description, interpretation and resolution over time.

Anonymous said...

...and I do completely agree with you about digitisation initiatives - especially within a New Zealand context. Good things are happening over at National Library and are encouraging the keepers to unlock the vaults a little. More is popping up all the time. Papers Past I think is a great example of what you are describing.

I just think that we need these high-flying projects every so often to show us something a bit different. We're human - we thrive on flashy, gimmicky and new. And then hopefully we go off and create something a bit more humble which is somehow a bit more special....and yes, works better, having learnt lessons.

Ahh, it's a bit of fun, init.

xx Tiki

Courtney Johnston said...

Yeah, it is. And you're right - sometimes you do need to be inspired by the sheer whizzbangery of what's possible.

I have a feeling you and I might know each other in what Neal S so endearingly called 'meatspace'. I'm @auchmill on Twitter.