Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Partners with Google Cultural Institute

People from around the world can now take free virtual tours of the Gardner, Google Street View–style.


In the new Google Art Project collaboration, visitors online get a virtual tour of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Exciting news out of the Gardner camp this morning: the museum has announced a new partnership with the Google Cultural Institute, a collaboration that makes much of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s vast collection virtually accessible to audiences around the world—and it “opens” today.

For those unfamiliar with the Google Cultural Institute, and more specifically, the Google Art Project, just imagine being able to go online and tour world-class museums without having to travel or even pay admission. Think: Google Street View meets private White House tour guide. No, really, the White House is one of the hundreds of participating institutions that you can check out online, right now. You can also explore Versailles, MoMA, the Met, the Whitney, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Boston’s own Museum of Fine Arts, and more.

By joining this highly esteemed group of museums to embrace the digital age, the Gardner also offers support to the idea that historical artifacts and arts education should be made more readily available to people around the world. In an age when funding for school field trips just isn’t what it used to be, such endeavors cannot be underscored enough.

To create the virtual experience, special Street View “trolleys” were used to take 360-degree images of galleries at the Gardner. Not only do visitors to the virtual Gardner Museum get a Google Street View–style tour, but high-res closeups of select works allow people to zoom in and learn more about pieces that pique their interest. A few popular stopping points: John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo, Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s Lady in Yellow, and the fireplace in the second floor Tapestry Room (look for the unicorn battling a dragon). On the third floor, you’ll find Mrs. Gardner herself.

OK, but virtual tours are nothing new. Here’s why the Google Art Project is so special: it’s searchable, customizable, and social.

  • You can browse and search hundreds of museums by title, artist, museum, location, and even medium. Once you find something you like, click on the artist’s name, museum name, etc. for more.
  • You can curate your own personal digital gallery (bookmark that tapestry at the Gardner, your favorite Monet at the MFA, and don’t forget the unibrow-raising Frida Kahlo self-portrait at Museo Dolores Olmedo). From there, customize with captions or even video comments.
  • Finally, you can share your findings with friends.

Want to tour the Gardner together? “Meet up” with fellow art buffs from around the world via Google Hangouts—it’ll be like fifth grade all over again as you stroll from room to room.

Incidentally, a virtual tour means the “no touching” rule does not apply. And curiously, even on a virtual tour, the Gardner fences you off from traversing into the lush courtyard. Nor can you sit in any of Isabella’s many, many chairs. Gosh could that woman hoard chairs.


Ready to begin? Click to start exploring the Gardner Museum via Google Art Project. Learn more about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum at