For some of us, it has been over a year since we last stepped foot in a museum. How many times have you caught yourself longing to walk through a portrait gallery or wander through a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum? Have you longed to sit down at your local museum cafe with a cup of coffee to do a little people-watching?
While we can’t help you with that last one, we can help you find some fun digital alternatives to beat the museum blues. With the pandemic bearing down hard on the tourism industry, museums across the world got creative and found new ways to celebrate their collections through digital exhibitions.
After you browse through these fantastic online museums, be sure to exit through the gift shop and help keep your favorite museums alive until you can visit them in person.
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10 Museums You Can Visit Online
The British Museum has a significant portion of their collection available to view on their website, but they have also shifted their scheduled in-person exhibitions online for everyone to enjoy. Currently, you can experience online exhibits and lectures about Pandora’s Jar, the Queens of the Crusades, and coming soon the murder of Thomas Beckett. You can even look at the Sutton Hoo mask featured on Netflix's film The Dig.
They also have a few nifty virtual tours geared towards children that may help you navigate home education with a fun activity. However, these free virtual tours are made available to British school children.
While nothing can beat the experience of getting lost while wandering through a portrait gallery, the National Portrait Gallery has tried to recreate the experience by featuring live online Zoom tours that you can book. If you don’t want to book a tour, you can explore the gallery online by visiting their digital exhibitions. These exhibits include the inspiration Votes for Women and Struggle for Justice exhibits.
Google has a wide selection of museums, historic properties, and cultural institutions on its Arts and Culture page and one of these museums is the Musée d’Orsay. The digital exhibit From Station to the Renovated Musée d'Orsay takes digital visitors through the museum’s history in a presentation-style exhibit. It is very informative and a fun way to learn something new today.
It should come as no surprise that the Smithsonian Institute has a robust digital program, with numerous virtual exhibitions to choose from. You can virtually visit all of your favorite Smithsonian museums and explore their collections at your leisure. One exhibit at their Anacostia location even features a podcast-style audio tour for those looking to combine the virtual and audio experience.
The El Museo has turned their Popular Painters exhibit into a digital experience that will satisfy your art gallery needs from the comfort of your own home. You can go through each piece of art and learn more about the artist, the design, and the artistic style at play. If you have an afternoon free, this would be a great way to spend it!
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is offering $8 tour rentals to allow visitors near and far to experience one of their latest exhibitions. Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation focuses on the intersection of visual and verbal language through street art and music. The site also features a playlist that includes music that inspired and came out of New York’s post-graffiti era.
The Peabody Essex Museum has digitized one of their recent exhibits and you will not want to miss it. The exhibit, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, is the first exhibit in a series about the paintings of Jacob Lawerence, a well-known Black American artist from the 20th century. The museum also features digital exhibits about the Salem Witch Trials, Maritime Art, and more!
Immerse yourself in the Salvadore Dalí experience and imagine yourself walking through the halls of the museum, taking in all of the exhibits. Throughout the virtual tour, there are little pop-up icons that allow you to learn more about pieces on display and the rooms themselves. Explore different rooms in the museum as you journey through the artist's life and legacy.
Did you know that the NASA Research Center in Virginia offers virtual tours? Well, now you know. You can find out more about the research facility, watch videos, and learn more about aeronautics, atmospheric science, space technology transformation, and cultural change around space exploration. This would be the perfect afternoon adventure for you and the children in your life if you are looking for some scientific fun.
While the Vatican may have reopened to the public, you can still visit them digitally through the nifty “You Visit” program that takes you through a Google Street view-style tour with a tour guide giving you information about your visit. This is the closest thing you can get to having a personal tour of the Vatican. There is a lot to explore during the tour and you will learn more than you ever expected to learn about the Vatican.
The Bottom Line
Whether you're looking to visit your local museum or ready to explore somewhere far from home, be sure to check out all of the incredible institutes and historic sites that have opened their virtual doors to engage with a new audience. Learn something new and exciting from the comfort of your own home, until it's time to return to people watching and exploring your favorite museum.