Story at a glance

  • When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, museums faced extensive damage, but their artworks were saved.
  • Google Arts&Culture and Lin-Manuel Miranda and his family have digitized more than 300 pieces of art, now available to view online.
  • “We hope that the world will get a glimpse of the art treasures of Puerto Rico and — then come visit them,” Miranda said.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, art conservators had to race to store their museums’ collections in safe, climate-controlled warehouses. Some museums have been repaired since then but there still isn’t enough space to display all of the work that had to be taken down. Now, digitization will make it available to be admired worldwide.

Thanks to a collaboration between several museums, Google’s Art&Culture project, and Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, 350 pieces of Puerto Rican artwork can now be viewed online

“We hope that the world will get a glimpse of the art treasures of Puerto Rico and — then come visit them,” Lin-Manuel Miranda said during the Nov. 7 launch event in San Juan, the island’s capital, Quartz reported. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory in the Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic.

Google uses their powerful Art Camera to take extremely high-resolution photographs of art, allowing users online to zoom in close and see details down to brushstrokes. The photographs also provide a sort of preservation. If anything happens to the artwork in the future, there is a high-quality reference for restoration.

The Mirandas “have been doing incredible supporting efforts towards the art community in Puerto Rico” since the hurricane, María del Mar Caragol, editorial director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, told ARTnews. She hopes the latest project will share “an idea of our national identity” with the world. Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, previously established a multi-million dollar fund to support the arts community on the island as they recovered from the hurricane.

Carmen Ramos, deputy chief curator and curator of Latino Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, points out that art from people of Puerto Rican descent living abroad are missing from the pieces that were digitized, Quartz reports.

 “I like that they cover artists from the Spanish colonial period and works by contemporary artists like Daniel Lind Ramos. This is a good start,” she says.

Published on Nov 12, 2019