Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quietly, Google Puts History Online

There's an interesting article by Eric Pfanner in the New York Times discussing Google's initiatives in digitizing artifacts from museums, archives etc. and making them freely available globally to any one with internet access. Pfanner mentions a number of projects digitized by Google, all of which have seen great increases in the number of virtual visitors. He also considers the criticism that is often directed at nonprofit cultural institutions for working so closely with such a vast corporate company like Google.

Beginning of article:

PARIS — When the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, reopened last year after an extensive renovation, it attracted a million visitors in the first 12 months. When the museum opened an enhanced Web site with newly digitized versions of the scrolls in September, it drew a million virtual visitors in three and a half days.

The scrolls, scanned with ultrahigh-resolution imaging technology, have been viewed on the Web from 210 countries — including some, like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, that provide few real-world visitors to the Israel Museum.

“This is taking the material to an amazing range of audiences,” said James S. Snyder, the museum’s director. “There’s no way we would have had the technical capability to do this on our own.”

The digitization of the scrolls was done by Google under a new initiative aimed at demonstrating that the Internet giant’s understanding of culture extends beyond the corporate kind. The Google Cultural Institute plans to make artifacts like the scrolls — from museums, archives, universities and other collections around the world — accessible to any Internet user. . . .

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