Strengths of Google Arts and Culture

by Patrick Jerry

Considered as a tool for our project of collecting, organizing, and presenting Korean Minhwa artwork, the Google Arts and Culture system has a number of simple but important advantages. Perhaps the most important advantage of Google Arts and Culture is the incredibly high quality of the images in its database. Many of the images available through Google Arts and Culture’s database are what are known as “gigapixel” images; images made up of as many as seven billion pixels that allow users to zoom in to microscopic levels and perceive details in the art that would be invisible even to viewers seeing the work in person (Beil, 2013). The potential value of such high-quality images is obvious. Given that one of our goals in undertaking this project is to bring awareness to a widely overlooked form of art, it is important that the images we link to are of as high a quality as possible, to give a good impression of the artwork’s quality to visitors who are appreciating minhwa for the first time. Furthermore, the rich symbolism of minhwa paintings requires high quality images to be fully appreciated. Understanding the meaning of minhwa paintings requires more than a familiarity with the symbolic meanings of the plants, animals, and other subjects of the painting in question. The viewer must be able to perceive these elements of the paintings in detail to gain a complete understanding of the painting’s subject matter, and thus its symbolic meaning. While it is true that information on what the painting represents could be provided alongside images of the painting itself, if the viewer is unable to confirm this meaning with their own eyes than a complete appreciation of the work is impossible. Representing the gold standard in image quality, Google’s “gigapixel” images would be ideal for capturing this level of detail.

In addition to the high quality of its images, the Google Arts and Culture interface has a number of convenience features that would be advantageous in creating our collection of Korean folk art. The user gallery system is a simple and free method of collecting artworks and providing commentary on them. If necessary, multiple user galleries could be created for the different sub-genres of Minhwa painting. The Arts and Culture user galleries are clean and easy to read, making them an economical, easy to use, and attractive method of organizing artwork. Adding to the convenience of the user gallery system is the fact that details of the artwork, such as its creator, its date of creation, and its physical characteristics are already present in the Google Arts and Culture database. Furthermore, these entries also contain descriptions that go into the work’s content and symbolism. Assuming that all the art we wished to cover existed within the Google Arts and Culture database, our job would be as easy as collecting the art we wished to cover in an attractive user gallery, and amending the existing descriptions where necessary. This convenience factor, along with the high quality of Google’s images, make Google Arts and Culture an attractive option for developing our collection of Korean folk art.