The University of Kentucky Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments

Google’s Cultural Institute Launches New Way to Visualize History

Vis Center faculty member Dr. Brent Seales is currently on sabbatical working at Google’s Cultural Institute. He has provided us with a first hand account of the development of Google’s new on-line exhibit of important historical events.

Dr. Seales’ update from Paris, France:

For the past year, the engineering team at the Google Cultural Institute has been working steadfastly and intensely to prepare for today:  the new launch of 42 online exhibitions at http://google.com/culturalinstitute.  As Visiting Scientist with the engineering team I have had a first-hand view of the process and a chance to get to know the engineers and some of the technology behind the code that is driving the launch.

When you visit the digital exhibitions and work your way through the stories being told over the “assets” (images, video, text, tags) I hope you are gently and artfully pulled in to the appeal of those exhibits and the powerful stories they tell.  When you come up for air after some exploration, remember that behind those stories is an enormous engineering effort, striving to hide, so that an experience can be created that transcends the nuts and bolts of coding.

And trust me, there are plenty of moving parts – when you are hosting digital exhibits over an archive of more than six million images, supporting thousands of queries per second, being viewed on myriad devices and browsers – you have to work very hard to get it right.  This team understands that.

When it comes to interdisciplinary collaboration this launch has really led with passion and creativity.  From the excellent exhibits, the content partners, the user experience experts, to the engineering specialists, there has been enormous effort in working toward the very challenging goal of creating an impressive user experience over a huge digital repository.

Take a look at the exhibits at the Google Cultural Institute platform and let me know what you think.  I hope you enjoy the time you spend looking at it, and maybe it will inspire some of your own ideas about stories that need to be told – maybe some that only you can tell best.

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