You may not get to Florence anytime soon, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing the beauty of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus… from your living room. Google has teamed up with world-class museums to digitize parts of their collections and make them accessible online. Users can browse through paintings, take virtual tours of galleries and get up close and personal with masterpieces from around the globe.

The road test: We worked our way through the museums using both the basic viewing function as well as the Google street view option. We searched for our favourites, discovered unknowns and learned a great deal about the featured art from the information provided in the painting notes.

The highlights: We have to commend the execution of this site. It is so easy to navigate and so fun to explore. If you have any interest in the arts, you should enjoy the expansive collections represented and the information available on some of the paintings. We especially liked the zoom function, which allowed us identify individual brush strokes in Van Gough’s Starry Night.

The speedbumps: When “exploring the gallery”, it can sometimes be tedious to get the right view of the art.  We became slightly frustrated by the number of clicks, odd angles and inadvertent zooming/direction changes. However, we appreciate the purpose of the project, which allows us to get a better feel for the museum itself and the layout of the art. Also, while we’re hesitant to complain about library of content, we wouldn’t object to the site including the Musee d’ Orsay, the Prado or the Vatican

The bottom line: We love this site for making the masterpieces so accessible, and Google does not disappoint in the execution of their admirable mission. But as great as the sight it is, there is not an application in the world that can capture the experience of seeing a masterpiece in the flesh.