Weaknesses of Google Arts and Culture

by Patrick Jerry

Unfortunately, despite its ease of use and the high quality of its images, a number of factors made Google Arts and Culture unsuitable for use in our project. The most important of these factors is that the Google Arts and Culture database simply does not contain the artwork that we want to collect. As previously mentioned, our work is focused on minhwa, a specific form of Korean folk painting. Unfortunately, searching for minhwa on the Arts and Culture website only provides five results. Of these five results, only two are actually related to minhwa painting, one a modern work of art that contains minhwa motifs, and one a user gallery whose information is of questionable veracity. Given that Google Arts and Culture only digitizes images from its member institutions, it is impossible for us to use the Arts and Culture database in our project, as there is no way for us to get the art that we need into the database. Furthermore, even if it was possible for us to add artwork to the database as users, it would deprive us of one of the most important advantages of working with the Google system: the high quality images. Google creates its high quality images by personally digitizing the collections of its partner institutions; so if we provided the images ourselves they would naturally be of a lower quality. This would leave convenience as the only advantage of the Google system, which is not enough to justify using it on its own.

The argument could be made that the art we need could exist within the Google Arts and Culture database, just not categorized under minhwa. The presence of some minhwa artwork within the user created database supports this conclusion, but this possibility does not justify the effort of using Google Arts and Culture. The fact of the matter is that if it is not possible to locate the art we need through a simple keyword search then using the Arts and Culture database is too inconvenient to be practical. Minhwa artwork is a broad genre and the artworks are spread across a large number of museums, so searching the database based on creators or museums would not produce an adequate result. The subject matter of the paintings is broad and symbolic enough that searching based on locations or persons depicted would also be ineffective. Even if we were able to divine an adequate method by which to search the database it is still probable that the database would not contain specific artwork we wished to include, a problem that we would have no way of addressing while still making use of Google Arts and Culture. Ultimately, the flaws in the Google Arts and Culture database invalidate its advantages in such a way that it is unsuitable for the purposes of our project. The advantage of ultra high-quality images is invalidated by the database not having the images that we need, while the advantage of a convenient and free artwork manager in the user gallery system is invalidated by the inconvenience of actually searching the database for the images that we need, should they exist at all.