I took the virtual Prado experience on Google Earth today and, overall, I have to say the hype is a little overblown. I flew into Madrid assuming Google would sweep me straight into the museum but was, instead, confronted by 14 masterpieces outside the Museum. I updated to the latest version of Google Earth and attempted to enter the Museum’s entrance like a video game but was still denied. What you do have access to is each of these paintings at an amazing 14,000 megapixels – which means you can see details never before possible to the general public. Sure, it’s definitely fun to float above craquelure but, in the end, this is only useful for a few specialists in the field of art history. What Google is really giving us is a preemptive glimpse of what is yet to come -that the Prado will eventually be virtualized for the benefit of everyone. This won’t take anything away from the museum experience itself but will, rather, enhance it – just as encyclopedias, tourist’s guide books, and postcards did once before. Don’t get me wrong, Google Earth is still awesome and gets better every month but who really won today were the P.R. firms for both Google and the Prado Museum itself. Just as the ‘Mona Lisa’ became even more famous in the mechanical age of reproduction so did the Museum in the virtual age of the internet. Google says they don’t plan on virtualizing other museums but don’t believe them – they won’t be happy until they document and record every frickin’ aura in the universe.