British Museum and Google are collaborating on a new project to digitize images of rarely seen Mayan artefacts, including hieroglyphs photographed by British explorer Alfred Maudslay, who led a Mayan expedition to Central America in the 1880s.
British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer told the Guardian the multidimensional approach allows the audience to experience the exhibition in a unique way: you can visit the museum in person, or explore the artefacts online. There's even an immersive experience using Google cardboard.
"Digital, virtual and analogue, here at the museum – coming here to engage with the objects themselves – do not exclude each other, they help each other," said Fischer.
Maudslay visited Guatemala, southern Mexico, Honduras, Belize and El Salvador, governed by the ancient Mayan culture from AD250 to AD900, where he captured photographs at the Mayan sites of Tikal, Yaxchilán, Copán, Quiriguá, Palenque, Chichén Itzá and Ixkun.
The British Museum has nearly 250 glass-plate negatives, along with hundreds of casts. Many of the museum's acquisitions, along with records of Maudslay's expeditions and technological preservation processes, can be seen online at Google's art and culture project entitled"Preserving Mayan Culture."
"They were an extraordinary civilisation who developed an extremely complicated urban landscape involving millions of people," Jago Cooper, curator of the museum’s Americas department, told the Guardian.
Describing the British explorer as a "visionary" and a "pioneer in visual communication," Cooper said: "He knew that these would be the best preserved examples and now, 130 years later, we are tapping into that vision; we are carrying on his legacy in the 21st century."