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How Google is 'street view' mapping local museums

You've probably heard about Google's street view mapping, maybe you've even seen the cars driving around with giant, funny-looking rooftop cameras. Google is now taking that technology indoors here in Cincinnati.

But in order to create street view style maps inside buildings, the company had to get creative. Google's Becca Ginsberg says engineers modified the car cameras, creating a handcart that can be easily pushed along museum hallways, “so that people not only can explore great works of art in high resolution but also feel like they’re at the museum by using our popular street view technology to feel like they’re walking around inside and visiting the institutions.”

Museum "street views" should be available in the coming months for the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Museum Center.

Content Production Specialist Nick Massa explains why the Museum Center was excited to participate.

“The facility, being as big as it is, this gives up the ability to give the visitor tools to better explore and see what’s around than they would have with a traditional paper map,” he says.

Ginsberg says Google's team only had a few minor problems photographing inside Union Terminal when they were in town a few weeks ago. But the Museum Center's Nick Massa says the winding ramps throughout the building required some extra brain power.

“There were some complications telling the system where it was at because it knew that it was changing levels and elevation and was on a slight tilt and all these other things that required some finessing on the part of their team. But they did a really fantastic job getting that all sorted out.”

The mapping is part of Google's largerArt Projectwhich digitizes artwork from museums around the world. Certain works are singled out and photographed in extreme high resolution. Ginsberg says the gigapixel images contain seven billion pixels.

“That’s about a thousand times more detailed than your average digital camera and ten times higher resolution than the artworks on the site," she says. "So this allows you to zoom in and really see the cracks in the painting and see very, very up close and personal.”

The Museum Center submitted a piece titled "A view of Cincinnati from Forest Hills, Kentucky" to be made into a gigapixel image. A team of Spanish photographers took 289 photographs that will be used to create the final image.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.