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Google and the British Museum collaborated to digitize the ancient Mayan civilization collection of British explorer Alfred Maudslay [MAWDZ-lee].
Maudslay was one of the first European explorers in the 18th and 19th centuries who visited Guatemala to learn more about its lost ancient cities. Unlike most explorers, however, he neither took artifacts nor tampered with archaeological sites. Instead, he kept them intact, simply taking photographs and creating casts of the artifacts.
His collection of images and casts has been kept in the British Museum’s Americas department. Some items from the collection, including fragile glass plate negatives and photographs taken in the 1800s, have been kept in storage and hidden from the public for over a century. Using technology by Google, however, Maudslay’s collection is now accessible to anyone.
The online collection, Preserving Maya Heritage, allows users to explore Maudslay’s photos and casts more closely. It also has a feature that lets them immerse in street view tours of Guatemala’s archaeological sites using Google Cardboard, a virtual reality headset compatible with most smartphones.
This is not the first time that Google helped create an interactive online museum. In 2016, Google collaborated with London’s and Berlin’s Natural History Museum to create a similar platform that allows users to view the museums using Google Cardboard.
Meanwhile, aside from online museums, other institutions have also used technology to enrich visitors’ museum experience. For instance, a small UK museum created a website to improve dissemination of information on their vast collection of minerals and flowers. Another museum in New York lends its visitors an electronic pen that can be used to draw on interactive tables or save information while at the museum.