With Feet for Eyes

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The Times looks at Art Project, an attempt by google to offer virtual tours of some of the world's greatest collections:


The Art Project has been hailed as a great leap forward in terms of the online art experience, which seems debatable, since most museums have spent at least the last decade -- and quite a bit of money -- developing Web access to works in their collections. On the site of the National Gallery, for example, you can examine the lush surface of Velázquez's "Rokeby Venus" with a zoom similar to the Art Project's. Still, Google offers a distinct and extraordinary benefit in its United Nations-like gathering of different collections under one technological umbrella, enabling easy online travel among them. 

When you view a work by one artist at one museum, clicking on the link "More works by this artist" will produce a list of all the others in the Art Project system. But some fine-tuning is needed here. Sometimes the link is missing, and sometimes it links only to other works in that museum. Other tweaks to consider: including the dates of the works on all pull-down lists, and providing measurements in inches as well as centimeters.

I found the interface rather clunky frustrating, but even leaving that aside, I don't have much desire to see a museum through a computer monitor. I'm certainly not a luddite. But I love to wander, and I love the visceral physicality of being lost that I good museum offers. Surely I would love to see Versailles. But I'd like to do it with my feet.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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