Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 12.54.23 AMSchool librarians have a love hate relationship with Google.  While it is the world’s most powerful search engine, it is also the default for every student (and teacher) who just wants to quickly get at an answer to a query and bypass the usually harder to use library web portal.  But Google has created something that librarians can love: a powerful asset that links your device to millions of the worlds most treasured art and artifacts: Google Cultural Institute.

First launched as part of the tech giant’s 20% time program, where employees spend 20% of their company time working on projects of personal interest and creative ingenuity, this endeavor does more than a simple Google Image search will do.  The team who created this powerful tool is based in Paris at a site they call The Lab.  They use innovative technology and novel approaches to this work.  Here are some of the special features:

  1. Hi-Def Detail: the images are recorded in high definition detail, so they can be zoomed in for close examination beyond most images available online.
  2. Visual Clusters: by conducting thematic searches, the user can amass intriguing clusters of image results, either by image based groupings or metadata clusters
  3. Comparisons: by bringing so many institutions and their artworks to this one respository, one can retrieve, compare and contrast images that would be difficult or impossible to bring together physically.
  4. Strike a pose: a fun feature allows the user to strike a pose for their internet connected camera, and the search feature will locate an artwork that is similar in gesture or position.

I recommend this feature be a feature added to all school library websites as a portal to viewing and understanding creative arts from around the world. It would be a great place to launch projects for

  • Art appreciation
  • Historical explorations on art of particular eras
  • Creative writing response to a visual cue
  • A scavenger hunt game
  • Explorations in visual literacy

To read more about how this project got started, check out this article from Wired Magazine and watch this TED Talk by project director Amit Sood.