From ax heads to machine learning: Israel joins Google’s ‘Once Upon a Try’
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From ax heads to machine learning: Israel joins Google’s ‘Once Upon a Try’

National Library of Israel adds three exhibits, on Newton, old maps and dye-making, to 23-nation online interactive project about exploration and innovation

A map of Jerusalem from the years 1670-1700 by Romeyn de Hooghe, part of the "Maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem" exhibit, part of Google's Once Upon a Try international online exhibition project. (Courtesy National Library of Israel)
A map of Jerusalem from the years 1670-1700 by Romeyn de Hooghe, part of the "Maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem" exhibit, part of Google's Once Upon a Try international online exhibition project. (Courtesy National Library of Israel)

The National Library announced on Wednesday it had become the first Israeli institution to join Google’s “Once Upon a Try” project, a massive online exhibition about inventions, scientific discoveries and the groundbreaking individuals who made them happen.

The project, launched Wednesday, brings together collections from 119 institutions in 23 countries, including NASA, CERN and the US National Air and Space Museum. Its website features an augmented-reality exhibit on the Big Bang developed by CERN, the acronym for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which operates the famed Large Hadron Collider. Another of its over 400 interactive exhibits includes an inside Street View tour of the collider.

From the earliest ax heads to an exhibit on NASA’s satellite imaging techniques, from the ancient roots of gunpowder to the much later inventions of the toilet and toothbrush, from a high-resolution image of the first known map of the Americas in 1508 to the letters of Albert Einstein — published online for the first time — the Once Upon a Try website tries to chronicle and make accessible the highlights of human exploration and discovery.

The National Library contributed three exhibitions to the project.

An image of Sir Isaac Newton that is part of a Newton family genealogy, contained in the “Isaac Newton’s Theological Papers” exhibit, part of Google’s Once Upon a Try international online exhibition project. (Courtesy National Library of Israel)

Isaac Newton’s Theological Papers” uses the Israeli institution’s collection of 8,000 of Newton’s papers to describe the great scientist’s lesser known religious thinking, including his “deep interest in Jewish sources.”

Maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem” is an exhibit drawn from the 1,500 maps of Jerusalem and the land of Israel contained in the library’s Eran Laor Cartographic Collection and drawn from five centuries of mapmaking by pilgrims, explorers, soldiers and scholars.

Dye Hard: The Race to Revolutionize the Color Red” is a close-up view of the history of the dye industry through “a little-known story that spans many ages and cultures” and is centered on “a tiny little insect.”

“Treaty of the culture of the nopal and the education of the cochineal in the French colonies of America,” by Thierry de Menonville, 1787, part of the National Library of Israel’s “Dye hard” exhibit on the history of the dye industry, part of Google’s Once Upon a Try international online exhibition project. (Courtesy National Library of Israel)

“The National Library is proud to share our treasures with the world as we take part in this significant initiative, which tells the stories behind some of the major developments that have impacted human history and culture,” said library director Oren Weinberg.

Once Upon a Try also highlights the contributions of female scientists, such as the first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, the pioneer in the study of dinosaurs Mary Anning, and Dorothea Minola Alice Bate (born 1878), who was an early and important figure in the scientific study of animal fossils — and the first woman to be employed by London’s Natural History Museum as a scientist.

In a collaboration between NASA and Google, it also showcases NASA’s archive of 127,000 images of deep space using a “storytelling tool powered by Google machine learning.”

LH 95 stellar nursery in the Large Magellanic Cloud. (NASA/HubbleSite/public domain)

Amit Sood, director of Google Arts & Culture, which is running the project, said in a statement Wednesday that the company hopes the new project will inspire future discoverers and “give people that extra boost to find their very own eureka moment.”

Once Upon a Try can be accessed via the Google Arts & Culture website, as well as its iOS and Android apps.

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