Google has announced Google Art Project, a new tool which makes more than 1,000 works of art more accessible. The company used technologies like Picasa and App Engine to make the project possible, and also built a new technology that would enable Street View to go indoors.

Currently the service features high-resolution images of famous works of art created by more than 400 artists. The Street View technology allows you to take a virtual tour inside 17 of the world's most acclaimed art museums.

Google lists three main features for the new service:

  • Dive into brushstroke-level detail: On top of the 1,000+ other images, each of the 17 museums selected one artwork to be photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or "gigapixel" photo-capturing technology. Each of these images contains around 7 billion pixels and a specially-built "microscope view" that uses Picasa to deliver these images at amazingly high resolution.
  • Explore inside the museums: the Street View team designed a new vehicle called the "trolley" to take 360-degree images of the interior of selected galleries. These were then stitched together and mapped to their location, enabling smooth navigation of more than 385 rooms within the museums. A new clickable annotation feature was created, so you can jump from being inside a museum one moment to viewing a particular artwork the next. Once inside an image, an info panel lets you read more about an artwork, find more works by that artist, and watch related YouTube videos. Gallery interiors can also be explored directly from within Street View in Google Maps.
  • Create your own collection: you can save specific views of any of the artworks and build your own personalized collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends, family, or on the Web using the integrated URL shortener.

The great thing about Google Art Project is that it can be used by the millions of people that would otherwise never have the opportunity to see most, if not all, the art work in question. As the service expands, even regular museum tourists will find something they haven't seen in person.