If you’ve ever wanted to visit some of the world’s most famous museums, but never had the chance, now’s your opportunity! Many iconic museums are offering virtual tours and specially curated digital exhibits specifically for guests who can’t get there in person.
It’s not just a quick walk-through of one or two rooms in each museum, either. In fact, most are virtual reality tours and digital exhibits that are in-depth enough to warrant several “trips.”
Take a little time each month to explore these museums; you’ll discover something new every time you step through those virtual “doors!”
The British Museum
The legendary British Museum offers a wide variety of unique online experiences for remote visitors to explore. One feature, called “The Museum of the World,” allows visitors to take self-guided tours through a digital timeline, with pop-up details about hundreds of individual artifacts.
You can explore Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Additionally, there are five thoughtful and intriguing categories of artifacts to view along the individual, interactive timelines:
- “Art and Design”
- “Living and Dying”
- “Power and Identity”
- “Religion and Belief”
- “Trade and Conflict”
Through a partnership with Google, the British Museum also has a “street view” interactive tour available throughout the entire museum. You can virtually “walk” through several exhibits on the various floors and sections of the museum.
There are also a whopping 51 specially curated digital exhibits, each providing an in-depth look at a specific time period, exhibit, or individual artifact.
While you might not be able to visit the Guggenheim in New York City in person right now, you can still tour its stunning collections online! The museum offers five unique exhibits curated for online visitors, including a history of Latin American art, an exhibit of contemporary art from South and Southeast Asia, and a feature on the glasswork of Josef Albers.
You can also take a virtual reality tour of the museum via several different Google Street Views. These “walking” tours allow visitors to explore different levels and wings of the museum, so it’s definitely worth multiple visits.
If you’ve ever been curious about modern art, these virtual exhibits are a low-pressure way to learn more about it.
The National Gallery of Art
Located in Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Art is, quite literally, the national museum for the United States. If you visit the museum’s virtual exhibits, you can view over 40,000 individual pieces of art, artifacts, documents, and more.
The museum has also assembled two unique exhibits for remote guests: “Fashioning a Nation” and “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting.” The National Gallery has also partnered with Google’s Arts and Culture app to provide exclusive tours and digital features for mobile devices.
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) has four branches across South Korea, and its locations in Seoul, Gwacheon, Deoksugung, and Cheongju have opened their digital doors to online visitors worldwide.
Eight unique digital exhibits guide visitors through a variety of artwork and historical context, including 120 years of Korean modern and contemporary art, the history of the museum’s Seoul branch, and more.
Visitors can also take themselves on self-guided “walking” tours through the interior and exterior exhibits of all four branches of the museum. You can zoom in on individual paintings in Deoksugung, stroll by three-dimensional installations in Cheongju, or enter a room full of lights and mirrors in Seoul—it’s all up to you!
The Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world. And now, you can view them from the comfort of your own home. The museum offers over 160 detailed digital scans of items from its collections.
For those who are interested in learning more about Van Gogh’s life, the museum offers a pair of online mini exhibits: one on the books he read and was inspired by, and another on his personal life.
If you’d rather just take a leisurely stroll through Van Gogh’s masterpieces, you can do that, too! The digital walk-through allows you to zoom in on pieces much closer than you can in person. A timeline along the top of the walls helps you keep track of where you are and where you’ve been. This way, if you return for multiple visits, you can pick up right where you left off.
Journey to one of the most beautiful museums in Paris without leaving your home. The Musée d’Orsay’s online offerings include over 270 individual items from 1848-1914, complete with in-depth information about the historical and artistic backgrounds of each. It’s like a crash course in art history but interactive and more self-directed than any class.
You can also wander the halls of the museum, which is located in a former railway station (there’s also a digital exhibition that traces the history of the building). Perhaps you’ll choose to walk through a vaulted hallway filled with stunning sculptures, or appreciate the pop-up notations when you “walk” past a piece of art that has an in-depth feature in the digital collection. It’s an easy way to pass an hour (or several).
Museu de Arte de São Paulo
The Museu de Arte de São Paulo is Brazil’s first modern museum. It’s acquired a stunning collection since its founding in 1947. While visiting in person is off the table, viewing the exhibits is not.
You can explore over 1,000 individual pieces of art, from photographs and paintings, to sculpture, rock, and clay pieces. The museum’s online portal also offers the following curated exhibits of international art:
- “Art in Fashion: MASP’s Rhodia Collection”
- “Art from Italy: From Raphael to Titian”
- “Art from Brazil until 1900”
- “Art from France: From Delacroix to Cézanne”
- “Picture Gallery in Transformation”
- “Histories of Madness: The Drawings of Juquery”
As you “walk” through a Google Street View interactive tour of the museum, pop-up boxes will appear whenever you’re near a piece of art. You can click these to learn more about the history and significance of a piece.
The Louvre Museum
If visiting the iconic Louvre is on your bucket list, you can get a head start via its virtual tours and exhibits. Although there isn’t an option to virtually walk through the entire museum, there are seven online tours available of certain exhibits, past and present. Each of these is well worth a visit:
- “The Advent of the Artist”: A timeline of how anonymous craftsmanship evolved into the artist-centric Renaissance.
- “Power Plays”: The connection between art and political power, from antiquity to today.
- “The Body in Movement”: An exploration of how artists depict movement (specifically, dance).
- “Founding Myths: From Hercules to Darth Vader”: How myths have influenced art.
- “Egyptian Antiquities”: A guided tour of the Louvre’s Pharaonic collections.
- “Remains of the Louvre’s Moat”: A tour about the museum’s history as a fortress.
- “Galerie d’Apollon”: A tour of the historic gallery with ties to France’s golden ages.
The Eternal City is a treasure trove of stunning buildings and artwork. There are 12 virtual tours offered on the Vatican’s website, for an immersive look at some of the most stunning art in the Western world.
Although there aren’t as many interactive features as some of the other museums on our list (no clickable pop-ups), the walk-throughs of the Vatican’s famed halls, chapels, and museums are stunning. Whether you’re religious or not, the sheer history and beauty is overwhelming, even on a screen. And, yes, you can even walk through the Sistine Chapel.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
For a broad-ranging collection of visual art, you can virtually visit the Getty Museum over several different tours, and still only scratch the surface! This California-based museum allows online visitors to explore over 13,000 European, American, and Asian works of art from the 8th through 21st centuries.
You can “walk” through the museum via Google Street View and explore all the exhibits and wings at your own pace, as often as you’d like.
The Getty has also assembled 24 individual, curated exhibits for digital tours. While some offer broader histories, others take more in-depth looks at individual pieces or artists. In many cases, the exhibits are on unexpected, timely, or unique topics, rather than the standard stuff you’re used to seeing at an art museum.
You can explore the museum’s history via “Pride at the Getty” and then get up close to a certain French writing desk from the 18th century. You might want to explore the history of art about and in Notre Dame Cathedral or gasp over the hilariously weird art in “Fantastic Beasts of the Middle Ages.”
It’s art history like you’ve never experienced it before.
The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
If you’ve ever found modern art to be a bit intimidating, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art’s virtual-reality tours just might change your mind. Over 200,000 individual pieces are on display for visitors to learn about. A virtual Street View tour allows you to explore every nook and cranny of the New York City landmark while getting helpful pop-up links explaining the history of each piece.
The Met has also assembled 31 curated, online exhibits. For the most part, they’re evenly divided between the Met’s two iconic niches: visual art and fashion. Fashion lovers can get up close and personal to exhibits on iconic designers, like Worth, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Dior, and more.
Visual art nerds will enjoy the in-depth looks at the symbolism found in Vermeer’s work, the individual pieces by Rodin, or the depiction of music in art through the years. Even virtually, there’s an infinite amount to explore.
Western museums might have collected antiquities over the centuries, but why not go straight to the source? Cairo’s Egyptian Museum has virtual tours available of its most famous exhibits, like the “Tut Hall,” featuring artifacts from King Tut’s era, including his famed golden mask. Virtual tourists can also walk through the halls and zoom in on a wide variety of ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Although the ability to actually “walk” through the museum is limited, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities also offers virtual tours of the following historic sites:
This post was written by Amanda Prahl and was first posted to www.lifesavvy.com
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