Metropolitan Museum Enhances Online Access with Google Goggles

by Daniel Haim

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that it is collaborating with Google to allow users to search the Web via pictures they take on their mobile phones, to increase access to information online about its encyclopedic collections. Beginning this week, image-based searches on Google Goggles for works of art in the Met’s collections—whether from reproductions in books, posters, or postcards, for example, or in the galleries themselves—will produce direct links to extensive information about works of art on, the Museum’s website.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum, said: “The Met’s collaboration with Google presents a unique opportunity to unite image-based searches of the Met’s collections with the scholarship and rich interpretive materials we make available online about our works of art. Anyone with a smartphone who is interested in learning more about a work of art from the Metropolitan Museum will be able to do so easily and directly. This represents a milestone in our efforts to provide greater access to the Museum’s holdings for a global audience.”

More than 76,000 works of art from the Met’s collections are currently recognizable when searching with Google Goggles, including works from the Museum’s significant holdings of American art, Asian art, photographs, drawings and prints, European paintings, and Islamic art. Sculptures and other objects that Google’s technology is not optimized to recognize were not included in the Met’s participation; the Museum also excluded works under copyright.

“Google Goggles represents a powerful new way for users to interact with visual information,” said Shailesh Nalawadi, Product Manager of Google Goggles. “We’re excited that Google has been able to work with the Met to improve online access to its renowned collections, and we hope people around the world will use it to gain a deeper appreciation of art.”

Google Goggles uses machine vision technology to try to match portions of any photo submitted by a user against Google’s corpus of images. When a match is found, search terms relevant to the matched image are presented, and when a match is not found, similar images (based on texture and color) from the image search database are suggested. Google’s database currently includes more than 76,000 works of art from the Met’s collections that have been provided by the Museum, a number that will increase in the months ahead. A total of more than 340,000 of the Museum’s works of art are now generally accessible on, including all works currently on view in the galleries.

The Metropolitan Museum is in the process of carrying out a program—for both its main building at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, and The Cloisters museum and gardens, its branch for medieval art and architecture in upper Manhattan—to provide wireless access throughout all of its public areas, which are situated within many interconnecting wings and building structures. This initiative is part of a larger effort to enhance the visitor experience within the buildings, and to provide seamless access to information about its collections. Wireless coverage is already available in several areas, including the recently opened New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia, and throughout the American Wing (including the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings Sculpture, and Decorative Arts, opening in January 2012), allowing visitors the opportunity to use Goggles to obtain more information from the Met’s website about the works of art on view.

According to Erin Coburn, Chief Officer of Digital Media at the Metropolitan Museum: “This continuation of our broad efforts to enhance visitors’ experience through digital media builds upon the recent launch of the mobile-optimized version of the Met’s new website. Now, using Goggles, visitors can simply take a picture of a work of art with their mobile device and then link to the mobile version of to learn more about the work. It is a totally integrated experience.”