While Google Maps had already rolled out Street View in select art museums, including MoMA and the Smithsonian National Art Museum, it was largely a perfunctory tool that permitted basic artwork viewing. As of Wednesday, Street View will now allow virtual visitors with their Chrome browsers (mobile and desktop) to read annotations about the works, zoom in, and more.
Information will appear on the walls alongside the paintings, which will provide links to further resources gathered from hundreds of international museums. Google will cross-reference Street View images with data from the company’s Arts & Culture division, which works with the museums directly. "It's not just about what the user has searched for, but taking them on a journey so that they can discover things that they never even knew they would like," said Google product manager Marzia Niccolai to Time.
Google estimates it receives around 500 million art-related searches per month, playing a part in the user-experience improvements. Despite indicating that an educational boost was not the primary goal – “it’s just about search being able to derive the best answers to people’s questions,” explained Niccolai – now Googling arts queries will result in a newly implemented panel that shows helpful anecdotes such as where the work is currently showing or high resolution images. "Once we realised the demand was out there, we decided that this was something that was a very high priority for us," stated Niccolai.
The panels will be available on desktops, mobiles, Google iOS and Android apps.