The British Museum in London holds an array of beautiful and historically significant artifacts including the Rosetta Stone, which helped historians to understand the ancient hieroglyphics used in Egypt. Today, the organisation is teaming up with Google to bring its various collections online as part of the Google Cultural Institute. The search giant has been developing this resource for years by continually visiting and archiving exhibits around the world. With the British Museum, an extra 4,500 objects and artworks are being added to its collection, complete with detailed photos and descriptions.
The most important addition is arguably the Admonitions Scroll, a Chinese text which dates back to the 6th-century. The piece is incredibly fragile, so it's only visible in the museum for a few months each year. Through the Cultural Institute, you can take a peek whenever you like -- and because it's been captured at "gigapixel" resolution you can zoom in to see some extraordinary details. All of the objects are searchable on Google's site, along with a couple of curated collections about ancient Egypt and Celtic life in the British Iron Age.
If you want the traditional museum experience, however, you can jump into Google Street View instead. Permanent galleries spanning five floors have been captured with 360-degree panoramas, letting you click through each corridor and read the placards as if you were standing on Great Russell Street. Google says it's the largest space that's ever been captured on indoor Street View -- and while it doesn't have the breathtaking views found on Yosemite's "El Capitan," there should be plenty for aspiring historians and students to ogle over. Finally, Google has made a microsite called "the Museum of the World" to give visitors a flavour of the different objects and where they've come from, both geographically and historically. Not every artifact is available here, but the timeline is a neat visualisation and makes it easier to understand the connections between different objects.
Of course, none of this is a substitute for actually visiting the British Museum. But if you're halfway around the world, or simply unable to make the trip on foot, this is a neat way to experience the building's various exhibits. It's also handy if you just want to avoid the throngs of people pressed against the Rosetta Stone's glass cabinet on weekends.