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A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Google Culture

I just read an interesting article from The New York Times about the new Google Cultural Institute.

"The Google Cultural Institute plans to make artifacts like the [dead sea] scrolls — from museums, archives, universities and other collections around the world — accessible to any Internet user."

It's great that Google is willing to put some of its millions to work for the people of the world. A large scale digitization project focusing on cultural treasures sounds a little flashy, but it's a great place to start. From there hopefully the potential for education and open access can really take off. "In addition to working with individual museums and archives, the engineers intend to develop a standard set of tools that any institution could use to digitize its collection. That way, even small, private archives or collections could be placed online in formats that would make them easily accessible to broad audiences."

But not everyone loves Google. "Google has sometimes struggled to persuade cultural leaders to accept its plans. The company has been sued by authors and publishers on both sides of the Atlantic over its book-digitization project. In 2009, President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged hundreds of millions of euros toward a separate digitization program, saying he would not permit France to be 'stripped of our heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is.'"

I think it's definitely worth asking why are they getting involved with all this? Especially when "the activities of the Cultural Institute differ from some other Google initiatives in that there are few outward signs of the company’s involvement. While Google provided the technology to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls and is host to the pages on its servers, for example, the only reference to the company is a small note that the site is 'powered by Google.'" Is it just good-deed doing? Making the Internet a more fulfilling and interactive space?

The author of the article in The New York Times even asks "Is it appropriate for museums and other nonprofit cultural institutions to work so closely with a money-making machine like Google?"

The ethics aside, it's undeniable that Google has the ability to bring in crowds to museum websites, cultural archives, and even libraries.

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