Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Electric City: The Neons of Hong Kong, from the West Kowloon Cultural District exhibit. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Google project allows users to experience Hong Kong museums and heritage sites online


Exhibitions from four Hong Kong museums and heritage sites have been digitised by the Google Cultural Institution to be viewed online and through dedicated apps.

The West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Hong Kong Medical Science Museum and St James’ Settlement were added to the online exhibition platform on Wednesday, joining the King of Kowloon street art exhibit launched in March.

“What has really impressed me is the speed we’ve been able to add institutions in Hong Kong, we worked with the King of Kowloon exhibition for our Street Art exhibition project … and now today is really special because we’re adding four partners,” said Amit Sood, director of the Google Cultural Institute.

More than 400 items and 10 special exhibits have been added to the online archive by the four new partners, including the first use of gigapixel imagery in the city for “An unglazed painting of Canton (Guangzhou)” on display at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

Gigapixel imagery takes detailed photographs of close to one billion pixels allowing viewers to zoom in to examine individual strokes or minor imperfections on the artwork.

“For some people, it’s just fun, zoom in, zoom out, it’s more like a gimmick and that’s ok, that’s not a bad thing as long as you are motivated to then go to the real thing when you’re actually there,” Sood said of the online exhibition, adding that the emotional connection with the artwork can be lost when viewed on a screen.

The Institute provides the software for museums and institutions to create online exhibitions and mobile apps providing audio tours for visitors to their brick and mortar sites.

In the early days of the project, Sood spent a night on the floor of the Museum of Modern Art in New York to oversee the technology photographing the artworks, which can take from a couple of hours to a full night.

An almost two metre-tall trolley developed by Google’s Street View team was used to photograph and recreate the exhibition halls of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and Hong Kong Medical Science Museum.

“The various new technologies that make this possible, the virtual tour and exhibition archives, for example, create an immersive experience that gives a taste of our declared monument and will introduce the Museum to a broader audience,” said David Ko, spokesman for the Hong Kong Medical Museum Society.

Aside from making exhibits available online, the Institute has also developed apps for Google Cardboard that let people take a virtual reality tour of sites including the Palace of Versailles using their smart phones and a cardboard viewer.