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Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery opens online to viewers around the world

The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle has joined the Google Cultural Institute so art lovers around the world can enjoy a virtual visit

The Laing Art Gallery as online viewers will see it
The Laing Art Gallery as online viewers will see it

A tour of Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery is now but a screen tap away, opening up the venue to art lovers from across the globe.

The gallery has joined the White House, the Palace of Versaille and other museums and galleries around the world in Google’s Cultural Institute.

It means that art lovers from as far away as Texas and Tokyo can enjoy a virtual tour of the Newcastle gallery which has been building up a significant collection since it opened in 1904.

Google used Street View technology to film inside the gallery, meaning you can follow in the footsteps of other visitors without leaving any yourself.

Chief curator Julie Milne said: “This project means that you can now navigate around the Laing Art Gallery from your computer or mobile device, view the paintings from the collection online and even curate your own collection of artworks.

“We were thrilled to be approached by Google to be a part of this project and the Laing now appears alongside some of the most exceptional cultural venues in the world.”

Google photographed one of the Laing’s most important paintings, Laus Veneris by the Victorian artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, in ‘gigapixel’ format.

This enables viewers to zoom in extremely close to the painting and examine tiny details including individual brushstrokes.

Google Cultural Institute was launched in 2011 in “an effort to make important material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations”.

Since then it has forged partnerships with an increasing number of institutions and now boasts more than six million items including photos, videos and documents.

Knowing the Laing Art Gallery well, I found the virtual tour requires a little practice.

I managed to navigate the downstairs Northern Spirit exhibition and zoom in on exhibits such as William Nicholson’s portrait of Thomas Bewick.

I was able to focus on items in the craft shop and even see the prices of the sandwiches in the cafe. The camera stopped short of the gents’ toilet.

I wouldn’t say it’s as good as a real visit but for many people that’s no more an option than a quick tour of The John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is for someone like me, desk-bound in Newcastle.

That, too, is one of the many options on www.google.com/culturalinstitute

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, which manages the Laing, is working with Google to have its eight other North East cultural venues included in the online Cultural Institute.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
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