In a rare marriage of tech and art, history buffs and art lovers can now visit the Presidential Museum and Library virtually on their mobile phones.
The Presidential Museum and Library (PML) launched its online exhibitions and virtual tour in partnership with Google Arts and Culture at the Kalayaan Hall in Malacañang on July 5. Viewers can now find exhibits comprising historically significant furniture, artwork, and memorabilia from the collections of PML as well as from private collections on loan to the museum.
Google Arts and Culture Program Manager Pierre Caessa states that Google Street View technology was adapted to provide a 360° virtual view of the museum. They modified the system into a more mobile, smaller version, affectionately calling the museum view capturing device “The Trolley”. The Trolley has collected images and footage not only from the inside of Malacañang, but also from more than 1,000 museums here and abroad.
Caessa states it took Google and Malacañang around six months to work with experts and historians in completing the street view mapping, data collection, digitization, and curatorial work. He states that the partnership is a non-for-profit initiative, so the service was free of charge.
The online museum features 70 different Malacañang artifacts and two virtual 360° exhibits—one showcasing the history of the Philippine presidents, and another detailing the history of the presidential palace.
Amidst concerns of the virtual tours replacing the need to physically visit museums, PML Director Edgar Ryan Faustino assures that these innovations do not discourage the public but rather serve as a teaser or preparation for their future visits. Caessa adds that it can serve to complement and enhance the museum-going experience.
Museums from all over the world can undergo similar partnerships and select among the many tools Google Arts and Culture provides.
Over 6 Million artworks from 70 different countries are curated and digitized on Google Arts and Culture, ranging from manuscripts to paintings, and are free for viewing online.
Caessa also reveals that Google applies machine learning to map all of these artworks and classify them according to different variables based on visual similarities. The digitized artworks are stripped of metadata and are identified and classified purely using image recognition algorithms. Artworks from different areas and different time periods can be categorized, compared, and studied on, with possibilities of future research using the findings.