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Finding Asian treasures in The Museum of the World
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
opened its doors in 1759, offering free access to its 70,000 objects to all “students and curious persons.” The Google Cultural Institute has now made 4,500 of the museum’s eight million objects available for students, curious persons or anyone else with an Internet connection to see. For many who live in Asia-Pacific, this is a chance to pore over treasures from their region in far greater detail than even those in the museum can. Here are some of my favorite artifacts from Asia and Oceania:
The Admonitions Scroll
by Gu Kaizhi (China, 6th century)
This 6th century Chinese scroll has been captured in super high-resolution—what we call
—to give you a closer and more intimate view than you could ever get with the naked eye. Due to its fragile nature, it is displayed at the museum for only a few months of of the year; on the Cultural Institute, it can be accessed all year round. It tells the story of an instructress of the imperial court, who guides the ladies of the imperial family about correct behavior.
Gigapixel imagery enables users to experience the Admonitions Scroll in a way they would never be able to offline. The complete work can be seen on the left, and zoomed in detail on the right.
Miniature of Mughal Prince
This miniature painting shows an encounter between a member of the Mughal elite and a holy figure. Measuring just 10.5cm wide and 22cm high, the fine details of this artwork are best seen close up—or by zooming in to the image on the Cultural Institute. You’ll be able to appreciate the incredible detail both in the foreground and background, and rich and subtle colors with a close and accurate depiction of nature.
Zoom in on the Cultural Institute to admire the fine details of this miniature painting.
These colorful porcelain elephants, which stand about one foot high, were made on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan. How did the potters know what they were making, when real elephants would not have been seen in Japan at this time? It’s likely that these were ordered specially by merchants of the Dutch East India Company for export, commissioned by design as ornaments for European mantelpieces.
Zoom in to admire the overglaze coloured enamels decorating these elephants
White, minimalist forms are not a modern invention. These “moon” jars were prized during the Joseon dynasty in Korea, symbolizing the Neo-Confucian ideals of purity and integrity. Play the audio guide to find out the fascinating history behind how this particular moon jar found its way into the British Museum’s collection.
Bark etching of a kangaroo hunt
The British Museum is home to one of the oldest surviving Aboriginal bark etchings. The etching is made of bark from a eucalyptus tree which was blackened by smoke from a fire. Zooming into the artifact, you’ll see that the sooty surface was incised to depict figures armed with boomerangs, spears and clubs hunting a kangaroo.
Carved Wooden Figure Known as A’a
This wooden statue from the island of
in Polynesia was presented to English missionaries in the early 19th century as the local population converted to Christianity. It has inspired several artists of the twentieth century, including the poet William Empson whose
Homage to the British Museum
drew a contrast between the religious power of the figure and its secular surroundings.
There is a supreme God in the ethnological section;
A hollow toad shape, faced with a blank shield.
[...] At the navel, at the points formally stressed, at the organs of sense,
Lice glue themselves, dolls, local deities,
His smooth wood creeps with all the creeds of the world. [...]
Being everything, let us admit that is to be something,
Or give ourselves the benefit of the doubt;
Let us offer our pinch of dust all to this God,
And grant his reign over the entire building.
The British Museum is not only worth a visit for the objects in its collection—it has some impressive architecture too. You can experience the Great Court and a view of the reading room, which was used for research and writing by Sun Yat-Sen, Bram Stoker and Karl Marx.
Go on a private tour of the museum whenever you want! This is the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court. The famous architect Lord Norman Foster transformed the Museum’s inner courtyard into the largest covered public square in Europe.
Through a special
called The Museum of the World, visitors to this virtual gallery can explore and make connections between developments across the world’s cultures.
Clicking on an artifact from India in the 16th century shows connections between related developments across the world’s cultures around the same period in history
The Museum of the World gives visitors a new way to experience the British Museum’s collections, providing a wealth of knowledge about the exhibits with just a few clicks of the mouse. Each artifact on virtual display is accompanied not just by a caption, but also a map identifying where the object hails from, an audio guide, and links to related cultural objects online.
Posted by Piotr Adamczyk, Program Manager, Google Cultural Institute
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