After Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico in 2017, curators and staff for museums across the island sprung into action to protect their collections from immediate damage. Now several cultural institutions have partnered with Google Arts & Culture, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Luis Miranda Jr., with an eye toward long-term preservation. 

An operator digitizing artwork from Puerto Rico
Google's Art Camera captures the work in ultra-high resolution. Image © Google Arts & Culture

Launched last week, the new initiative features hundreds of pieces from four of the island’s top museums, selected by the curators themselves and digitized, down to the brushstroke, in ultra-high resolution – and plenty more are on the way. “Hurricane Maria reminded us of the urgency of preservation,” Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP) executive director Carlos R. Ruiz Cortés writes in a guest post for Google Arts & Culture. “It devastated our island and awakened the need to preserve our culture while we restored our home.”

The hyper-detailed renditions come courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute’s robotic Art Camera, a high-tech contraption that uses laser and sonar to take thousands of close-up shots and compile them into gigapixel images, capturing everything from Rembrandt paintings to Alexander McQueen textiles to ancient murals from Malta. “For us, the Art Camera is more than a piece of technology – it's a symbol of universal access,” Cortés writes. “Everybody will now have a new lens through which to see Puerto Rico.”

Featuring works from the ICP, the Museo de Arte de Ponce, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, the online exhibition aims to shine a spotlight on an oft-underappreciated – and underfunded – artistic culture. 

“It’s a flare out to the world that there’s incredible art here,” Miranda told the Associated Press. “There’s no reason why Puerto Rican art should not be seen on the same stage as the Louvre, the Met and all the incredible other places where Google has come with its cameras to digitize the artwork.”

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