Google extends museum partnership offering, lowers barrier for mobile apps

Through various initiatives run out of its Paris-based Cultural Institute, Google has been extending its reach into the museums sector by building on the infrastructure of projects such as Google Art and Open Gallery, as well as core platforms such as StreetView and YouTube. On December 10, Google announced their latest offering, inviting galleries to take advantage of a museum-specific mobile app platform. According to Google

The platform allows museums to create a simple but powerful mobile app, based on Google’s technology including Street View and YouTube. Without resorting to expensive technical help, museums now can tell their stories.

The press release concludes

The Internet no longer plays just a minor role in diffusing museum knowledge. It has become a major force, allowing museums to expand and strengthen their reach. We look forward to deepening our partnership with museums that see digital media as core to their mission of education and inspiring people about art and culture.

The motivations behind the ‘partnerships’ offered by enormous technology companies such as Google are often called into question. In a 2013 Wired article (See Some Art While You Can — Google Will Eventually Replace Museums) artists João Enxuto and Erica Love put their concerns as follows

Google is single-handedly redefining the public sphere of art spectatorship in much the same way that it is redefining the mapping of public space. As screen interfaces become a primary means for the disembodied spectator to access artworks and as museums give up the responsibility of digitization (of the commons) to a centralized database, Google Art Project will in turn dominate the search for art in the way that it dominates internet search.

This latest venture may be low risk for smaller institutions wanting to experiment in the mobile apps (for Android) space. Google already has a tightly integrated “content ecosystem” (see John Blossom’s 2014 Google update below) and it’s only going to get tighter as Google recoups its investments through monetization. Potential museum partners would be well-advised to pore over the small print and ensure any partnership includes a clear exit strategy.