Google has taken its street view cameras inside some of the world's most famous museums. The result? A stunningly high-resolution trove of paintings that would otherwise be an ocean away. And here's how they did it.

It's been an 18-month long journey for Google, as the company's camera's dutiful recorded 360 degree tours of 17 art museums—including the Smithsonian, London's National Gallery, the Met, MoMA, Uffizi, and other heavy-hitters—and over a thousand high-resolution paintings. Each individual museum has also chosen one piece to showcase in 7 billion pixels. It's clear enough that you can see the brushwork better than you ever could leaning behind the red velvet rope.

You also have the option to save individual works of art along the way, curating your own collection and adding comments that you can share with friends, family, and—more likely—Art History classmates. And "free" certainly beats a $20 suggested donation any day of the week. [Google Art Project via Engadget]