Google has come up with the next best thing to visiting the world’s greatest museums — high-definition virtual art tours that use powerful cameras to zoom into some of the most famous masterpieces in history.

The Google Art Project was announced Tuesday and uses technology adapted from the company’s Street View feature to allow web browsers to wander the halls of 17 leading museums around the world.

The most prominent works on show, numbering about 1,000 in all, can be viewed in ultra-high definition, allowing users to zoom in to see the smallest of brush strokes and cracks in the canvas. Each picture is accompanied by explanatory text.

The institutions on show include the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Tate Britain and the National Gallery in London, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Among the works available for ultra close-up viewing are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Cezanne’s Bathers and Van Gogh’s The Bedroom.

“It started when a small group of us who were passionate about art got together to think about how we might use our technology to help museums make their art more accessible,” said Amit Sood, head of Google Art Project, “not just to regular museum-goers or those fortunate to have great galleries on their doorsteps, but to a whole new set of people who might otherwise never get to see the real thing up close.”