A Night—or Anytime!—at the Museum

updated 06/29/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/29/2009 01:00AM

Yearning to wander Spain's Prado museum in your pajamas? Need a fast, free staycation? Using Google Earth's map program, anyone with a computer can now view masterpieces by Rembrandt, Goya and others—and get close-up in a way even a live visitor with a fist full of Euros can't. "You're seeing things that just aren't visible in a gallery," says Nancy Thomas, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, marveling how a few mouse taps take one from outside the building down to individual brush strokes. "I could spend hours looking at Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights."

Unveiled in January, the 14 clickable paintings are composites of 8,200 ultrahigh-resolution images taken by a photographer and a team of four computer technicians in the evenings and when the museum was closed. No plans yet for the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art but, says Google spokeswoman Kate Hurowitz, "this is just a start."

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