Google Art & Culture: a Meta-museum (Jieshu & Roxy)

This week we are going to use a Sanxingdui museum on Google Arts & Culture as an example.

Background of Sanxingdui

Sanxingdui, literally three stars mound, is the name of a Chinese archaeological site and the previously unknown Bronze Age culture for which it is the type site. It is located in Sichuan, China. It is the best place to watch and learn Sanxingdui Culture, which is the heritage of a lost civilization. Google Art Project provides people a chance to enjoy the fantastic artifacts of Sanxingdui without going there.

Home Page of Sanxingdui Museum

In the home page of Google Arts’ Sanxingdui Museum, we found that google will provide this website with the language of your account’s preferences. And this whole website doesn’t apply the choice to choose languages.


Google will present different languages according to your Google account

  • Daily selected Image with a hyperlink
  • Museum name and a brief introduction


  • Two exhibits: the faces of Sanxingdui, and the animals in Sanxingdui. These exhibits are created by expert curators of this gallery. We can totally see how digitalized design impact museums. Instead of the sole arrangements (link to the official website) in real museums, they can arrange these collections in multiple choices.
  • In this Collection. Here we can see albums whose covers are images of a token of this type. These tags are exactly the same tags at the bottom of the page of each item. But we think that this function could be improved, because existing tags are not precise.


  • 98 Items. 98 items with photos and hyperlinks, arranged with a pattern, we tried to analyze the rule of this pattern, but failed.
    • Organize by popularity
    • Organize by color
    • Organize by time


Specific Item

After you click into a specific item, you can see this item with high-resolution. You can zoom in to see the details.


  • High-resolution.Those photos are captured by Art Camera system. A gigapixel image is made of over one billion pixels, and can bring out details invisible to the naked eye. Digitalization preserves the meaning of the artifacts.
  • Private/public collections. Through the ♥️button. It is also a platform for you, after logging in, to collect your favorite collections and make your own exhibits, you can even share it with your friends and families. This practice could democratize art and culture.

Virtual Tour

Google use a system called Trolley to shot photos inside museums. A Trolley is a push-cart mounted with a camera system.


  • Collect images. Trolley equipped with several cameras and sensors.
  • Align images. After they shot the images, they use GPS, speed, and direction information to align imagery. This helps Google reconstruct Trolley’s exact route, and tilt and realign images as needed.
  • Turning photos into 360 photos. To avoid gaps in the 360 photos, adjacent cameras take slightly overlapping pictures, and then they ‘stitch’ the photos together into a single 360-degree images. They then apply special image processing algorithms to lessen ‘seams’ and create smooth transitions.
  • Showing the right images. How quickly Trolley’s lasers reflect off surfaces tells them how far a wall or object is, and enables them to construct 3D models, which determines the best panorama.

We found, however, unlike paintings, because all items in Sanxingdui are three-dimensional objects, displaying them on a two-dimensional screen is not enough to provide us with a sense of reality. Many feelings evoked by three-dimensional structures are lost. In addition, the user experience of the virtual tour is bad, without any feeling of immersion.


  • Google Art Project is a meta-museum. Digitalization of conventional media enables computing devices to become a meta-media. The items in Google Arts Project could be re-arranged in an unprecedentedly easy way. So Google Art Project became a museum of museums—a meta-museum, just as gallery paintings as meta-painting.
  • Google Art Project democratize artworks, just like Samuel Morse’s gallery painting.
  • Google Art Project by far is not competent to mediate three-dimensional objects.
  • The user experience virtual tour needs improving.
  • Deep Remix. We are also fascinated by Google Art Experiment, where items are used to create beautiful patterns like waves according to their shapes or colors, although in the timeline of Free Fall experiment, we couldn’t find items from Sanxingdui Museum. It’s a demonstration of the concept of deep remix mentioned by Lev Manovich in his Software Takes Command.

P.S. We really like to share with you this video, which is another example of meta-media.