Create Your Own Digital Gallery with Open Access Art & Chromecast

Today you can buy screens designed to showcase digital art, and we rely on smart devices throughout our homes for security, better energy use, and personalized music. The vision for the smart home originated long ago, and included a desire to make art personalized and accessible.

Inlay, row of stepped forms, row of rosettes, unclear pattern 100 BC–100 AD | Image Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access Collection

30 years ago Bill Gates started a company called Interactive Home Systems. A team of technologists and art historians worked together to develop scanning technology and museum partnerships to make the world’s art collections available on digital screens via the internet.

That company later became Corbis Images where I worked from 1999 – 2011. I was lucky enough to be part of the team that worked on “digital gallery” products. I helped early adopter clients with digital art selections for their homes, and we tried to find partnerships to make this vision a reality for a broader consumer audience. During those years the idea of the connected home was still ahead of its time – streaming as we know it today didn’t exist.

Personally, I enjoy having art on screens in my house – and I love this inexpensive hack to transform any television with a USB port into a digital gallery. If you use a Chromecast, you may have a sense of where I’m headed.

Ambient Art with Chromecast

When you have a Chromecast plugged into your TV, there is a setting called “ambient mode.” In this mode, when you’re not watching TV or casting, the device transforms the screen with a small selection of rotating photographs. I like it as background imagery, it works as decor and warms up a room.

There are options to customize the images that display including images from Google Art Project. You can connect and cast your own folders of Google photos, or even galleries you’ve created on Facebook or Flickr.

How to Show Your Own Gallery of Open Access Art

Working with Open Access collections from museums, you can curate your own world class art collection.

  1. To start, simply download images from the museum’s site, and then add the images to a folder in your Google Photos account
  2. Name your folder “Open Access Art” so that it is easy to locate
  3. Next, open the Google Home app
  4. On the Home screen, select your Chromecast icon and then click on device settings
  5. Scroll down the device settings menu, then select Ambient Mode
  6. Click “Edit Ambient Mode”
  7. Change your selection from “Art gallery” to “Google Photos”

From there you will be prompted to select a folder from your Google Photos account. Navigate to your folder “Open Access Art.” Once selected, your personalized museum gallery will appear on the screen.


Inlay, row of stepped forms, row of rosettes, unclear pattern, 100 BC–100 AD

Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access Collection