As a new graduate fellow at Ford’s Theatre, I am beginning to get a handle on the lingo of the office. Google Arts and Culture gets us excited about the digital future of Ford’s Theatre. You may wonder, “Why? What is Google Arts and Culture and how can it help me—as a teacher, student, Lincoln scholar, or just casual visitor to the site?” Now that I understand, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my knowledge with you!
Google Arts and Culture is an effort by Google to make cultural resources accessible to the world and to preserve them—digitally—for future generations. For a few years now, museums, libraries, historic sites and cultural institutions around the world have been uploading their collections to the site—and Ford’s Theatre is honored to be among them.
In addition to using the platform as a digital archive, Ford’s Theatre utilizes the platform to bring the story of Lincoln, Lincoln’s assassination and its aftermath, and the history of the working theatre to the world beyond our physical walls.
Here are three ways that you can use Google Arts and Culture to explore Ford’s Theatre virtually:
Online exhibits offer a way to explore objects in an organized way. Ford’s is continually creating new online exhibitions on its Google site. Currently, you’ll find exhibits relating to The Conspirators, Abraham Lincoln’s Final Journey, Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination, the History of Ford’s Theatre and the History of Petersen House. And we’re working on more! Online visitors can use these as ways to further investigate the stories about Ford’s. They can also use them to create lessons, conduct research or encourage curiosity.
Clicking on the museum view allows anyone to explore the Theatre, Petersen House, the Museum and Center for Education and Leadership galleries from the comfort of their home (personally, my preferred method is in bed in my pajamas with my cat). Not only that, but users are able to go—virtually, of course—into the box where President Lincoln was shot, something that in-person visitors to Ford’s generally cannot do.
Museum View also includes some of the objects in the Ford’s Theatre collection, showing their relationships to different parts of the theatre. This feature provides users with more in-depth interactions with the objects and facilitates an experience that can be enriching as well as educational.
Google is at its heart a search engine, so of course browsing its collection of Ford’s Theatre, which includes the National Park Service Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site collection and other objects related to the story, takes as little effort as reading this blog post.
While in the collection (“Items”), a simple click of the “Refine” button allows users to find any item by its name or a variety of other categories.
While browsing the collection, you will quickly begin to notice the real magic that is Google Arts and Culture. First, all of the images have been uploaded in high resolution, which means you can zoom in so far that you may even be able to see the stitching on fabric! Also, once viewing an object, visitors can simply click on “Details” to discover date that to explains the object’s significance and/or use.
At the bottom of the page, there is a “Discover” button that can lead you to other objects that relate to the one you are viewing. For a person like me who loves objects, the collection is easily the most valuable part of the new Ford’s Google Arts and Culture exhibitions. It can be used by anyone wishing to learn more about any of the different stories of Ford’s Theatre and the National Park Service collection.
But Wait—There’s More!
There is much more to Google Arts and Culture beyond these three features. Users can also share objects with others, compare two objects, and save objects to their own personal galleries (links found at the bottom of every screen in Google Arts and Culture). In addition to Ford’s Theatre, one can explore collections and virtual tours from museums and sites of interest around the globe.
The more I explore Google Arts and Culture, the more I am amazed by the vastness of this resource, and the more I find myself encouraging everyone I know to visit the site. Please share with us how you’re using this fantastic resource—we might just write about it in another post!
Allison Van Gilst is former Education Fellow at Ford’s Theatre. In August 2016 she graduated with her Masters of Arts in Teaching from the George Washington University Museum Education Program. Follow her on Twitter @alvangilst.