Editor’s note: On the anniversary of the first launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, we’ll hear from Dr. Ellen R. Stofan, planetary geologist and the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, about a new 360 film on board the Shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope.
Since the dawn of spaceflight, only a few hundred people have experienced space firsthand. But since the beginning, there have been moments that captured the world’s imagination and challenged our collective Earth-bound perspective. Of the many orbital endeavors that have made headlines through the decades, one of the most enduring and prolific has been the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Hubble has been called one of the most important single scientific instruments of all time. The data it collected has deepened our understanding of the natural world—from the edge of our solar system to the age of the universe—and the images it has returned have brought the startling beauty of the cosmos to people around the world.
Today, on the 34th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s maiden voyage, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and Google Arts & Culture have teamed up to bring visitors into the orbiter like never before. Two of the astronauts who helped deliver Hubble to orbit as part of STS-31—Maj Gen Charlie Bolden and Dr. Kathy Sullivan—take us on a 360 journey inside Discovery at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
The video was captured using Google’s Halo camera, and takes us along with the astronauts as they climb aboard the spacecraft together for the first time in 28 years. Charlie and Kathy show us what life in space was like from dawn (they saw 16 sunrises and sunsets each day) to dinnertime (sometimes eaten on the ceiling), and relive the moment they deployed Hubble after years of planning and training.
STS-31 is just one great example of why Discovery was called the champion of the Shuttle fleet—and why it is now on display as part of the Smithsonian’s national collection. Discovery flew every kind of mission the Space Shuttle was designed to fly, from Hubble’s deployment to the delivery and assembly of International Space Station modules and more. Today, we’re celebrating the orbiter’s 39 missions and 365 total days in space with this special immersive film, 15 digital exhibits, virtual tours, and over 200 online artifacts.
As we enter a new era of spaceflight in the years ahead—with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and the development of Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope—I hope this new collection demonstrates the remarkable progress we’ve made toward unlocking the mysteries of the universe, and how much farther we can go together. Explore the magic of Discovery Space Shuttle on Google Arts & Culture.
In a yoga studio on the 11th floor of Google New York, dancer Lorenzo Pagano performed a modern piece he’d choreographed, with roles for four dancers. But this wasn’t your ordinary piece of modern dance—through the use of technology, Lorenzo is dancing all the parts. With a Perception Neuron tracking suit, Lorenzo can record his movements as an avatar, and through virtual reality, he can watch his piece from any angle and in several backgrounds.
Pagano was among the dancers visiting from the Martha Graham Dance Company as part of a two-week Artist in Residency program through Google Arts & Culture. This latest endeavor had a simple aim: to bring dance, artists and technologists together to see what they can create.
Google Arts & Culture provides technical and developmental support, tools, and facilities to members of the Artist in Residency program. Working with Google technologists, Pagano and other company members explored how virtual reality and other technology might be applied to their craft. For example, some dancers wore full-body suits to track their movements and create virtual avatars in real time—a process that can help choreographers envision, tweak, and teach their pieces.
One of the first tools in hand was Tilt Brush, a Google VR tool that lets you paint in 3D space. With it, the dance troupe tried out some creative approaches to choreography. One member of the company, Xin Ying, created a duet inspired by the Chinese concept of yin and yang, where two dancers use their movement to paint a sculpture with Tilt Brush. To do so, she had to think about movement in a whole new way. “On stage, the movements would just disappear into the air,” Ying recounts. “With Tilt Brush, it became 3D art that lasted after the dance was finished.”
The goal of the residency was to create a new piece of art; along the way, the dancers realized the technology could be equally useful in helping them learn from what they create. Traditional cameras capture 2D motion from the audience’s point of view, which presents a challenge to performers, who have to think about all of the movements in reverse. Virtual reality headsets allow dancers to step into a role and really understand it, even walking around a piece they have recorded in order to see it from all angles.
The Martha Graham residency marks the first time that Google Arts & Culture has hosted dancers as artists in residence, and the first residency in New York City. Across the Atlantic and at the Google Arts & Culture Lab’s home in Paris, artists have been meeting for years with Google’s computer engineers to explore new ideas together. Last year, artist Jonathan Yeo unveiled a bronze sculpture modeled off of an AR piece created using Tilt Brush. Recently, the Lab unveiled new uses of machine learning in the art world, including Art Palette, which uses a combination of computer vision algorithms to match artworks with a color palette of your choosing.
“No artist is ahead of his time,” Martha Graham once said. “He is his time.” And by tapping into the technology of our time, we’re excited to see what these dancers and artists can do.
Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from British portrait painter Jonathan Yeo.
From photography to the printing press, to modern computing, art and technology have always influenced one another. And the artist’s toolkit is expanding with new mediums like virtual reality. As a portrait artist who primarily works with oil paint in two dimensions, drawing in three- dimensional space was unknown territory for me. Until recently, I’ve never created art using VR technology, but with Google Arts and Culture and the help of Tilt Brush engineers, I brought VR and sculpture together to create something that was more than just an experiment.
When the Guggenheim Bilbao museum opened 20 years ago it was described by many as a starship from outer space. Its swirling roof is made of paper-thin titanium tiles—33,000 of them—covering the building like fish scales. At the time, it was such a novelty that the museum had to commission a chemical laboratory to produce a custom liquid to clean the titanium!
The museum was an unusual experiment not just because of its gleaming shell. Over two decades ago, following the collapse of the traditional industries Bilbao was built on, the city was scarred with industrial wastelands, abandoned factories, and a community afflicted by unemployment and social tensions. Bilbao surprised the world (and raised a few eyebrows) with a unique idea to kickstart the city’s regeneration, and they set out to build—not new factories or new roads—but instead a new center for modern art.
Since then, the museum has attracted 19 million visitors and became the epicenter of the urban renewal that rippled through Bilbao. Today it stands as an icon of the city and its successful self-transformation. To celebrate the Guggenheim’s 20th anniversary, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the museum to bring their stories to you and show it from a new angle.
But how do you find a new angle on one of the world’s most photographed buildings? Google invited Johan Tonnoir—known for running and jumping across Paris’s busy rooftops with only a pair of sturdy shoes—to the Guggenheim.
Johan explored the building in his own way … through a breathtaking stunt-run across the building and its iconic slippery roof. He climbed to the highest peak and jumped, flipped and leapt from one wing of the roof to the other at 50 meters high. And all along, urban photographer Trashhand from Chicago followed him with his lens.
Check out the museum’s masterpieces on Google Arts & Culture (but please don’t try to do it Johan’s way…). You can see all this online at g.co/guggenheimbilbao or in the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android.
Ten years ago the venerable Bavarian State Library from Munich (BSB) and the comparatively young Google started their joint adventure: the digitization of hundreds of thousands of historical writings from the archives of the BSB and its Bavarian regional libraries. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of our collaboration, we’ve published a digital exhibition on Google Arts & Culture.
The BSB looks back on almost 500 years of history. In 1558 it was founded by Duke Albrecht V. With more than 10 million volumes, 61,000 current journals and 130,000 manuscripts, the library is one of the most important knowledge centers in the world.
To preserve that heritage, BSB has been working with Google since 2007 to digitize over 1.9 million copyright-free titles—such as books, maps and magazines—from the 17th to the end of the 19th century. Thanks to this partnership, BSB is now the largest digital database of all German libraries. The project has long been expanded and now covers the holdings of the ten regional state libraries such as Regensburg, Passau or Augsburg.
Not only for us at Google this clearly is a milestone in digitization and the prototype of a public-private partnership. Klaus Ceynowa, Managing Director of BSB, adds: “Content in context is our mantra. Google has played a major role in helping us achieve it!”
Have fun reading and browsing!
Through an immersive digital journey, we bring you straight to the institutions housing the world’s seminal contemporary art collections with the help of high quality visuals, gigapixel resolution images—which allow you to zoom into the tiny details of a piece of art, and panoramic Museum View imagery. You can hear amazing stories about art from curators, artists, and experts from institutions all over the world.
With a repository of online exhibits and editorial features, we answer common questions about the contemporary art world, introduce you to the world’s leading contemporary artists and icons, and perhaps most importantly, the issues that are shaping art today.
Here are some of our favorites:
Explore more stories and immersive digital content on contemporary art from over 180 partners around the world with the Google Arts and Culture app on Android and iOS.
“In the olden days, everybody sang.”
Those are the words of Leonard Bernstein, composer behind the iconic musical “West Side Story,” where everyone danced and snapped through the streets, too. Whether you’re a Jet all the way or you side with the Sharks, Tony and Maria’s love story is as poignant today as it was 60 years ago, when the Broadway musical first debuted.
In partnership with Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Museum of the City of New York and the National Museum of American Jewish History, Google Arts & Culture is launching a new collection honoring “West Side Story.” Bringing together artifacts and mementos from the making of the musical and movie, behind-the-scenes photographs, and a peek into the modern-day representation of the musical, this collection explores the history, artistic value and social relevance of “West Side Story.” Check it out at g.co/westsidestory and on the Google Arts & Culture app (available on Android and iOS).