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Google technology opens new views of St Paul’s

04 March 2016


Virtually there: the full quire ceiling and three details

Virtually there: the full quire ceiling and three details

ARCHIVISTS at St Paul’s Cathedral have teamed up with the Google Cultural Institute to make the cathedral’s architecture, artwork and history free to view for internet users around the world.

The partnership, launched on Tuesday, means that the treasures of St Paul’s are documented on the Google Cultural Institute website, using the latest Gigapixel photographic technology.

The technology has captured the 17th-century mosaics that cover the dome of the cathedral, known as the Quire ceiling, which can be examined in detail, owing to high pixellation, for the first time since the work was constructed. The photography, which took five hours to complete, has inspired new academic research into the style of the mosaics, and the species they depict.

The head of collections at St Paul’s, Simon Carter, said that the mosaics were the inspiration and starting point for the project, which had “exploded out in a very positive way” to include the whole of the collections department at the cathedral.

Google technologists and archivists at St Paul’s have collaborated to curate the new digital exhibit, which includes models, sketches, and designs by the architect Sir Christopher Wren.

It includes virtual tours, which use the same technology as that of the “Street View” function in Google maps to give visitors a 360º-view of the Whispering Gallery, and other architectural masterpieces in the cathedral.

The Chancellor of St Paul’s, Canon Mark Oakley, said that the Street View project “opens up the richness of the past and present” in “another attempt” to make St Paul’s “less a fortress of faith than a resource for the soul” for as many people as possible, whatever their physical ability.

The Google Cultural Institute showcases the artefacts of more than 1100 museums, galleries, and historic or culturally significant buildings around the world.

There are three sections on St Paul’s Cathedral. The first is “Exhibitions”, in which visitors are guided through, and given information and history on, the architecture, significant paintings, and photographs in the collection.

The second, “Museum View”, contains Street Views of and within St Paul’s, including the Stone Gallery, Golden Gallery, and surrounding precincts. The public can also see inside Wren’s 1.25-scale wooden model of the cathedral for the first time.

The third, “Items”, documents 148 of the historical artefacts currently housed in St Paul’s, all of which can be viewed in close detail by zooming in on the screen. This includes the painting The Light of the World, by William Holman Hunt, and a 70-year-old Thanksgiving service sheet for the St Paul’s Fireguard Watch (1939-45).

Mr Carter said that he hoped the new technology would encourage people to visit the cathedral. “If people know there is something to come and see, they will want to see it in person as well,” he said. “We have high hopes that the project will continue and blossom.”

For more information, visit https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/home.

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