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Google Art Project and White House Launch 360 Tour of ‘People’s House’

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Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — There’s a cool new way to tour the White House from the comfort of the Internet.

The first lady’s office announced Tuesday the White House has partnered with the Google Art Project to create a virtual, Google Maps-like tour of the president’s residence, as a part of what the Obama administration is describing as efforts to increase the accessibility and transparency of the goings-on at the historic home.

Michelle Obama filmed a welcome video for the online tour in which she stresses the White House’s role as “the people’s house.”

The tour explores the White House’s public rooms, halls and famous artworks, but only a small selection of rooms get the 360-degree Google Street View treatment. Users can browse a wide variety of international treasures in high resolution, whether it be artwork, the gilded sconces in the hallways of the White House, or samples of Lenox and Haviland china acquired during the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. The U.S. Grant soup bowl features orange flowers instead of a state seal.

Each piece is accompanied by an explanation on the site.  A circa 1799 steel and mother-of-pearl saber, for instance, was “Commissioned by the French volunteers who had served in the American Revolution for George Washington, but not presented prior to his death.” It was not delivered to the U.S. government until 1933.

The collection on display on Google consists largely of portraits of presidents, first ladies and a few Native Americans.

“Thousands of people have walked these halls and gazed at the artwork,” Mrs. Obama says in the welcome video. “They’ve imagined the history that’s unfolded here. And now you can do all of that without leaving your home. So…enjoy the history and the beauty of these rooms. Because after all, this is your house, too.”

The White House is now one of 46 museums around the world that have been given the 360-degree Google treatment, from the National Gallery to Great Britain’s Tate Museum to the National Gallery of Australia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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