Google PH opens virtual tour of Malacanang museum and library

By Edd K. Usman

With just a smartphone in their hands, Filipinos – or just about anybody – can now virtually tour the Presidential Museum and Library (PML) in Malacanang Palace.

Google Arts and Culture (GAC) Laboratory program manager Pierre Caessa briefs journalists in Malacanang during the July 5 launch

Google Arts and Culture (GAC) Laboratory program manager Pierre Caessa briefs journalists in Malacanang during the July 5 launch

This is after the local office of tech giant Google, through its Google Arts and Culture (GAC) unit, formally unveiled its partnership with the PML on July 5.

The launch of the partnership involved two virtual 360 degrees exhibits, “Malacanang as Prize, Pulpit, and Stage” and “Relics of Power: Remembering the Philippine Presidents”, as well as making available for museum lovers 70 select palace artifacts that were fully curated.

Smartphone users can just download the app “Google Arts and Culture” with the Palace icon on Android or iOS, or access it online.

The virtual tour is free of charge as GAC is “a not-for-profit initiative that partners with cultural organizations to bring the world’s cultural heritage online.”

The Silicon Valley tech company explained that it is all about sharing the world’s treasures. “We build tools and technologies for the cultural sector to showcase and share their gems, making them more widely accessible to a global audience,” it said.

Two of the technologies it developed and being used for GAC are the Google Street View and what it dubbed the “Trolley.” The Trolley is Google’s device used to capture views from museums and famous buildings across the world, among them the White House and now the 96-year-old PML located at Malacanang’s Kalayaan Hall.

To date, the PML is one of over 1,000 partner institutions of Google in 70 countries as it tries to make GAC a platform to more than 200,000 artworks, six million photographs, videos, manuscripts and other art, culture and history documents.

Online viewers have the chance to read Malacanang’s history and see curated exhibits that include furniture, artwork, memorabilia, and other items from PML, private institutions, and individuals’ collections.

They can also immerse themselves in the experience as they “walk’ through the museum’s two floors, “including architecturally significant rooms of Kalayaan Hall, the oldest original part of the Palace.”

Google’s “Trolley” gives the viewers a 360-degree view of the building’s interior. Another way to explore the interiors of the gallery is from within Street View embedded in Google Maps.

Google PH country manager Kenneth Lingan shows the Street View Trolley which the Google Arts and Culture (GAC) Laboratory uses in capturing 360-degree views of museums and other well-known sites

Google PH country manager Kenneth Lingan shows the Street View Trolley which the Google Arts and Culture (GAC) Laboratory uses in capturing 360-degree views of museums and other well-known sites

Pierre Caessa, GAC Laboratory program manager, said it took six months to complete the process of documenting PLM for the online exhibitions involving experts and historians. “Documenting” means street view mapping, data collection, digitization, and curating.

“This is a curatorial work from the experts who decided to put together two exhibits. This is a lot of work,” said Caessa.

He added Google’s side on the work is lesser than on the side of the experts, curators, historians, and museum. “So, what we do as Google is provide them tools so they can create. We are like a tool box,” Caessa explained.

“Another very important aspect of Google Arts and Culture is a no-profit-initiative. It is non-commercial profit. So, everything we do is for free. We are being supported by Google. Basically, the resources involved are pretty much human resources,” he said.

Edgar Ryan S. Faustino, director of PML, cited the use of technology in making the museum available to a wider audience.

“For hundreds of years we have safeguarded our history and heritage, and perhaps with the shift in technology and how it has shaped people’s lives and realities, it’s about time we use these advances to share our rich culture to the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, those who want to visit the physically the PML should make a request for reservation in writing through regular mail or e-mail, but its approval up to the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

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