Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 2:15 PM
A month ago, we announced a major expansion of our Google Art Project, which featured art from museums around the world. Today, we're taking another significant step forward in our goal to increase access to culture with the Google World Wonders Project.
The World Wonders Project goes outdoors to bring online icons from all times and places, and from all over civilizations all over the world. It features 132 historic sites in 18 countries, from prehistoric Stonehenge to Ancient Rome’s vanished Pompeii and the mystical wooden Kyoto temples. The sites are natural as well as man-made, ranging from the sandy dunes of Australia’s Shark Bay to the rocky cliffs of America’s Yosemite National Park.
The World Wonders Project is the latest creation of the Google Cultural Institute, opened in Paris last year. Under the institute’s auspices, we have launched a series of exciting initiatives, ranging from the publication of high resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the digitization the archives of famous figures such as Nelson Mandela. For the World Wonders Project, we’ve worked with a prestigious set of partners including UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund, Getty Images and Ourplace. The partners have supplied official information and photographs.
In order to create World Wonders, we took our Street View technology to a new level. Most of the these historic sites could not be filmed by car. We needed to use camera-carrying trikes and pedal our way close enough. Street View helps millions each day make travel plans or get a helping hand with geography homework. With World Wonders, Street View supports preserving and promoting some of the world’s most significant monuments for future generations.
Our launch event took place today in Madrid. We chose Spain because the country enjoys a particularly rich architectural heritage, including 12 Wonders’ sites. There’s the old cities of Salamanca, Toledo, Cuenca, Santiago de Compostela and Córdoba, the Roman aqueduct in Segovia and Roman walls in Lugo, and the archeological dig in Tárraco. The Wonders website is launching in Spanish, as well as English, French, Italian, Hebrew and Japanese. The World Wonders Project YouTube channel adds a video dimension.
By bringing these sites online, we’re aiming to encourage visitors to travel to these fabulous sites. Many museum curators involved in our Art Project report spikes in entries after viewing their collections on their computers.
This project provides significant educational benefits. A section on the site offers valuable resources for teachers in primary and secondary schools, which enable them to teach history and geography in innovative ways. Educational packages for classroom use can be downloaded free of charge from the World Wonders website.
When I was a child, flipping through encyclopedias while researching for school projects, the thought of exploring the world’s famous historic and cultural sites was a distant dream. Today that dream becomes a little closer for all of us.