The Louvre - The Virtual Visit

Last time I checked, flying to Paris was pretty costly, making an afternoon trip to the Louvre out of the question. But fear not, budget travelers--if you've got a DVD drive in your Mac and about 299 French francs you can take a tour during your lunch break thanks to Montparnasse Multimedia and their DVD-ROM title "The Louvre - The Virtual Visit."

Providing nearly two hours of full-screen video on 10,000 years of the history of civilizations, art history and eight centuries' worth of history on the Palace itself, The Louvre - The Virtual Visit delivers a narrated tour through 25 rooms inside the museum, including 3,000 images and illustrations - enough Louvre information to make virtual visitors feel like they've actually been there.

The program's interface works like a web browser; single clicks whisk you into various rooms and through the collections. You can view the art by room (good if you've actually been there), by year, or by searching for a specific piece. If you select the Mona Lisa, for example, you'll see the painting the way museum goers view it, by "walking" up to it. Additionally, while looking at the famous Mona Lisa, virtual visitors are just a click away from reading the bio of her creator, Leonardo da Vinci, and seeing his other works.

An important component of the program that helps make the virtual visit seem more realistic is the way the actual sizing of a piece if presented. Sure, you can stare at an image on your 15-inch screen, even magnify it and look at it in detail, but just how big is it really? The program's metric graph shows you. For example I discovered that the binding of the mummy of Tacheretpaakh stands about 1.2 meters high. By placing the artwork on a graph to show you its size, program tools allow the user to compare the sizes of art in the museum.

As you walk through the Louvre, the software keeps track of where you've been so that you can easily retrace your steps. In person, however, it's much more difficult to backtrack through the crowds to the mysterious face of Mona Lisa. The audio commentary that runs through the virtual visit is optional. It gives information on when the room you're in was built, who commissioned the room, and the significance of the artwork. While walking through the rooms, the pieces of art appear in an icon bar below the view window. A click on a piece's icon will take you to a bio of the artist, a full screen shot of the art piece, as well as any available narrative.

Overall, the presentation of the museum and its collections in The Louvre - The Virtual Visit is excellent and easy to understand. At first you may find yourself feeling lost in the myriad of pieces, but upon beginning exploration, the museum and its history is fascinating. The Louvre is one of the world's greatest museums. This program is a great way to get acquainted with some of its works, either as a warm-up for an actual visit, or even as a substitution.

Macworld's Buying Advice

An informative and enjoyable way to explore the Louvre. Great for students and adults as well as anyone interested in art and history.

RATING:

4.5 mice
PROS: Comprehensive tour of the Louvre, including high quality shots of the art and detailed historical information. Nearly 2 hours of compelling video. CONS: Need a DVD drive. COMPANY: Montparnasse Multimedia (800/426-6027).  LIST PRICE: $50.

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