- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Need a refresher on the details of Edgar Degas’ painting of Estelle Muson Degas at the New Orleans Museum of Art? Or maybe a close-up of the red hills in Georgia O’Keefe’s “My Backyard” at the museum? Or a tour of the museum before a visit to the Crescent City?

That’s possible now that the city’s oldest fine arts museum is featured on the Google Cultural Institute , the California tech giant’s growing online trove of art works, artifacts, historic documents and cultural experiences.

The collaboration was announced at a news conference at the museum on Thursday.

For now, there are 71 works of art from NOMA featured on Google’s portal. There are plans to add more. In all, the museum has about 40,000 works of art. The museum houses one of the most important, and eclectic, fine arts collections in the South.

Google created its Cultural Institute in 2011 and the trove features images from around the world, from some of the most famous museums, such as the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, to lesser known places.

Lucy Schwartz, Google Cultural Institute program manager, said Google uses a special high-resolution camera to photograph works of art. The company says the details in images are at the “brushstroke level.”

The sampling of NOMA’s art works on the Google site include many of its more famous pieces - including Degas’ portrait of his blind sister-in-law Estelle, O’Keefe’s landscape painting of red hills behind her home in New Mexico, a Jackson Pollock work and several Italian baroque and Renaissance works.

Susan M. Taylor, the director of NOMA, said she expects a variety of people to look at the museum’s art through Google’s portal.

“People will use it as a pre-visit (to the museum),” she said. “Academics and researchers will use it to gain familiarity with the works in our collection and discover works that they didn’t know were here.”

She said making collections known to people is “one of the great challenges for many art museums.”

Still, she said viewing works of art online only does so much. “Of course, nothing can replace visiting the museum in person,” she said. “We have no intention of replacing the visitor’s experience.”

Susan Saward, the owner of Gallery 600 Julia in New Orleans, praised the project but added that viewing art online has its limitations.

“The problem with online imagery there is no sense of scale, no sense of dimension and texture,” she said. “Everything becomes flat and the same size. A miniature looks the same size as a portrait.”

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