The Great Departure (c. 3rd century), in schist stone, depicts Siddhartha Gautama's departure from his
family home to take up the life of a mendicant in pursuit of enlightenment. From google.com
For the first time ever, the Indian Museum, Kolkata is making its extensive holdings of Buddhist art available online. The project, which includes the museum’s famed Gandharan sculptures, the largest collection in India, is being developed in collaboration with the Google Cultural Institute. So far, three exhibitions are on virtual display: The Life of the Buddha in Indian Art, Indian Buddhist Art, and a 360-degree panoramic Museum View.
The Indian Museum, founded in 1814, is the oldest and largest multipurpose museum in the Asia-Pacific region. Spread over some 10,000 square feet, it houses a collection of more than 100,000 objects divided into three main wings—archaeology, anthropology, and art—as well as collections by the Zoological, Botanical, and Geological Surveys of India.
“This is the first virtual exhibition we are organizing after which all our galleries will gradually be available on the Google Cultural Institute website,” said museum director Jayanta Sengupta. “This allows anyone to have a walk through the gallery and see it as you do it with your eyes. You can scroll around to see even the ceiling and the floor.” (NDTV)
The 360-degree panoramic Museum View currently enables online visitors to take a virtual tour through eight of the Indian Museum’s galleries, including the Gandhara, Bharhut, and sculpture galleries, where they can “walk” among and view the exhibits as they are displayed in the actual museum.
Take a virtual "walk" though the Indian Museum's impressive collection of ancient Buddhist art. From google.com
A team of Google’s experts from the UK and the US have been working since last year using specialized and patented camera technology to create high-resolution images of the museum’s historical treasures. Although Google’s team is only able to work on Mondays, when the museum is closed to visitors, they expect all the Indian Museum’s galleries to be online within a year.
The plans include making some of the Indian Museum’s more notable cultural and historical treasures available as ultra-high-definition gigapixel images that will enable the virtual visitor to get up close to these rare works. “If it’s a painting then you can see all intricate details like even the brush strokes, said Sengupta. “Seeing a gigapixel image is like putting the object under microscope.” (NDTV)
Sengupta dismissed suggestions that making the museum’s valuable collection of art and antiquities freely available online could negatively impact the number of visitors to the museum. “Internationally this has been the case: after people see it online they are more motivated to see the real thing and so they walk into the museum,” he said. (NDTV)
Gandharan Buddha head (c. 2nd century) in stucco. From google.com
The Google Cultural Institute, launched in 2011, describes itself as “a not-for-profit initiative that partners with cultural organizations to bring the world’s cultural heritage online. We build free tools and technologies for the cultural sector to showcase and share their gems, making them more widely accessible to a global audience.” (Google Cultural Institute)
In addition to the Indian Museum, the Google Cultural Institute has partnered with a number of institutions to make exhibition and archival content available online, among them the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the British Museum, the Museo Galileo in Florence, the Museum of Polish History in Warsaw, and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The institute also includes the Google Art Project, which provides high-resolution images of artworks from museums in more than 40 countries, three-dimensional recreations of world heritage sites, and archival exhibitions.