Google and the British Museum Collaborate to Create Digital Museum

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. tamper with (something) / ˈtæm pər wɪθ / (phrasal) – to change something with the intention to damage it

    We kept the artifacts in a secure place so that nobody can tamper with them.

  2. intact / ɪnˈtækt / (adj) – complete or unbroken

    Archaeologists secure artifacts in special containers to keep them intact.

  3. cast / kæst / (n) – an object that is created from a mold

    I created casts for my sculptures to be exhibited in the museum.

  4. fragile / ˈfrædʒ əl / (adj) – easy to break or damage

    Please handle the glass artifacts with care because they are fragile.

  5. dissemination / dɪˌsɛm əˈneɪ ʃən / (n) – the act of spreading something

    Online encyclopedia and blogs help in information dissemination.


Read the text below.

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.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you rather view a museum through a device or go to an actual museum? Why?
• Do you think that digitizing museum collections is a good way to preserve culture? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think that artifacts are better preserved in a museum or better left where they originally came from? Discuss.
• What would you like to preserve digitally in order to make it available for future generations (e.g. film, music, dance)? Why?