NOEL KING, HOST:
One of the world's great museums is making it a lot easier to see its collection. The Louvre, home of the "Mona Lisa," is now entirely viewable online. Here's NPR's Neda Ulaby.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: You don't even have to Louvre home to visit.
(SOUNDBITE OF JACK PIERCE'S "PIXIE LIFE")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking French).
ULABY: Already, the Louvre has posted YouTube videos taking you up close, for example, to a lush baroque oil painting of a sleeping hunter, the mythical Narcissus. It's nestled among nearly half a million works of art now available to look at digitally.
ANDREW MCCLELLAN: Five hundred thousand objects is just overwhelming.
ULABY: Andrew McClellan wrote a book about the history of the Louvre. Putting nearly everything online, he says, is in keeping with the museum's Enlightenment-era ideals.
MCCLELLAN: But what does somebody do online trying to navigate half a million images?
ULABY: It's daunting. Major institutions have been digitizing their collections for years, but the Louvre is so vast, it's unclear how many objects it actually owns. Big collections raise big questions, McClellan says. Is it ethical, for example, to post pictures of sacred objects from other countries that were never intended to be casually viewed?
SUSE ANDERSON: This has to be coming up against these questions around restitution, repatriation.
ULABY: Professor Suse Anderson studies museums and digital technology. She says she likes that the Louvre's online expansion was designed to make it easy to look at art with your cellphone. And it's not just focused on the "Mona Lisa."
ANDERSON: I'm a serendipitous browser. I'm often not the person seeking the hero works. They're so easy to find. I'm the person who wants to go and find the unexpected.
ULABY: Like the mighty museum in Paris, she says, the Louvre's online collection provides pathways that guide you towards new stuff. But its videos, images and prompts help you discover art on your own.
ANDERSON: It helps you see things you might not otherwise. It helps you find surprises. And that's where I think you most often get the connection to your own life - is when you find something that resonates, that isn't the thing you went looking for.
ULABY: And you can do that digitally while you Louvre the crowds of tourists behind.
Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF TAKENOBU'S "FINGERPAINTING")
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