Why the Google Cultural Institute is fascinating
Marcus Lilley explains why, if you like to browse the internet for cultural happenings, the Google Cultural Institute is a fascinating place.
The Google Cultural Institute brings millions of artefacts from art galleries and museums around the world to life in a virtual museum which you can browse at your leisure. The museums and galleries listed on the site include: The British Museum, Yad Vashem, The Auschwitz – Birkenau State Museum and The Museum of Polish History.
I have always really enjoyed visiting the site because it gives you access to galleries and artefacts that you may not get chance to visit. Of course the ‘visiting’ aspect of going to a museum or gallery is not available on a computer but the principle of being able to see some of the world’s most important artefacts is a wonderful opportunity.
The Google Cultural Institute has recently revealed a new digital exhibition which partners with 60 arts organisations to provide a range of content including: photos, videos and documents. The partners for this include The Royal Shakespeare Company, Battersea Arts Centre, National Theatre and LIFT Festival.
The wonderful thing about this new exhibition is the wealth of material that is available. As audience members we can often feel quite limited when we watch a performance because we only see the live performance and read a programme to get information about the production.
Of course, this kind of ‘virtual’ experience does not present the same thrill or excitement of a live production but what it does do is give people an opportunity to experience and immerse themselves into the world of theatre and performance in a way which is unique and innovative.
Along with UK cultural institutions the exhibition also shines lights on international venues such as: Comédie des Champs-Elysées, The National Theatre of Korea and The Theatre Institute of Warsaw. Before viewing the exhibition I knew very little about these institutions but being able to view the history of these venues, there key works and their importance to the cultural life of their respective countries has really inspired me to go and find out more about them.
This is not the first time Google has engaged in interesting arts based projects. In 2013 they teamed up with The Royal Shakespeare Company for a staging of ‘Midsummers Night Dreaming’. The performance was staged in real time over the weekend of the 21st to the 23rd June 2013. The RSC also created an online narrative composed of Twitter posts, Facebook posts, Tumblr posts and Google+ posts. There are a number of videos available online, including one about the show, another about how the show works and finally the concept outline.
Over the course of the weekend there were 110,000 unique visitors to the project, 3,000 pieces of content were developed and a 742% increase of followers for the RSC’s Google+ page.
From a marketing point of view for the RSC the project allowed them to re-imagine and reposition Shakespeare for an audience which is very hands on with social technologies such as Google+ and YouTube.
The starting point for the collaboration between the RSC and Google was a 2012 conversation called ‘My Shakespeare’ which asked people to reimagine Shakespeare for the 21st Century. Shakespeare has been reimagined and retold in lots of interesting and imaginative ways throughout the centuries and it is a testament to the writing that we are always intrigued by the story. When we are talking about digital re-imagination or online performances sometimes we can get lost in the technology that we are wanting to use rather than the story. The power of theatre and performance is the story and our connection to the story through the characters. The technology is the enabler to present access to the performance which may not have been done before.
The Google Cultural Institute and the work the RSC have done in collaboration with Google are a clear sign that collaboration between live performance and online technologies are limitless but we need to allow ourselves the time to develop these ideas. No one idea will stick and by the very nature of how technology is evolving we need to be aware of the changing landscape and scenery around us. The power of online technology is the democratisation it can deliver. We can be more involved in theatre and performance than ever before. The power and allure of live performance is and always will be there but the technology that is available to us today is truly transformative when we place storytelling at its heart rather than focus on the immense power of the technology.
Image Credits: Middle Image: “https://performingarts.withgoogle.com/en_us/theatre“; Lower Image: “http://event.dream40.org”