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Take a virtual museum tour of 8 global institutions to get your culture fix from home

Mary Grace Garis

Mary Grace GarisMay 14, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/SrdjanPav

For many who find themselves with a huge uptick in free time in quarantine (which, to be clear, certainly isn’t inclusive of everyone), this time at home, spent socially distant from others, has brought about an unbearable dullness. And that’s not just because it means staring at the same four beige walls you meant to paint last August. Rather, a lot of it has to do with a lack of mental and physical stimulus. This lack of art, exploration, and abundance of free space may have your brain in need of some fine tuning, and luckily, you can get your culture fix right from your computer screen, thanks to the rise of the virtual museum. That’s right: Famous institutions that span the globe are have opening the doors to the public opening their doors to the public, and all you need in order to take advantage is an internet connection.

As an added bonus, there are benefits you can glean from visiting a virtual museum: You’re nearly certain to up level your knowledge quotient and emerge from quarantine having broadened your worldly cultural horizons, despite not having traveled far beyond your home. Furthermore, research supports the notion that engagement with the arts, whether via a virtual museum or otherwise, is linked to longevity.

Research supports the notion that engagement with the arts, whether via a virtual museum or otherwise, is linked to longevity.

But how do you decide which virtual museum to visit? Well, to be certain, options do abound, but as someone who loves art, beauty, and travel, I decided to provide you some of my personal go-to recommendations. Best of all, especially right now, with travel plans on hold, you don’t have to go anywhere for the experience, which will still be transportive in nature.

Each establishment rounded up below has a different take on the virtual museum concept, allowing you to explore in whatever way you feel most comfortable. Maybe you’ll even find a few options that speak to you.

8 virtual museum tours you can take from the comfort of your own couch

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

Sure, you won’t be able to take a long stroll through Central Park to get there, but you can still take advantage of more of the most magnificent structures in the world remotely. The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art’s Met 360 Project is the establishment’s version of a virtual tour; it’s set up with a series of YouTube videos that provide a view of different pockets of this New York City institution. As you’re “wandering,” you can navigate all around to see the mummies and knights in all their glory. Bonus: You can “scroll up” to the Bronx and catch the Cloisters as well.

2. The Guggenheim, New York, New York

While it’s a shame that you can’t explore the unique structure with your own two feet—the spherical Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building is a sight on it’s own—you can still get an informative Guggenheim experience. This virtual museum tour includes a slideshow about the architecture of the building, soundtracked by audio guide. You can also explore the archives from the Guggenheim’s collection, thick with more than 1,700 pieces of artwork spanning the late 1800s to now.

3. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

Need a cultured long-distance date idea? Every Thursday, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has a virtual view spotlighting a different exhibit, with live Q&As led by the artistic directors and curators who brought each vision to life. It’s a perfect event for someone who really wants an enriching and specific experience that’s a bit more interactive than the average virtual museum.

4. The Louvre, Paris

Never seen the “Mona Lisa”? Well, here’s your passport to Paris. Through different technological means, the Louvre will guide you through some of its most exquisite offerings. The Petite Galerie is it’s most easily interactive, covering a lot of ground and getting up-close-and-personal with a number of works. I’m also super into the gilded, glorious Galerie d’Apollon (even if the Flash platform you use to explore it provides for a very early-aughts frame for 19th century masterpieces.

5. The British Museum, London

Stop by London for an eyeful of the British Museum, seen in all its high-ceilinged splendor in Google Street View. If you really want to give yourself a virtual reality experience, take the tour while getting in your step count. Clock in living-room miles as you gaze upon hieroglyphics and Greek pottery. (Just be careful—I’m not responsible for any injuries.)

6. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

This museum is the setting of one of my happiest memories from a girls’ trip in 2016, and it provides for one of my favorite takes on the virtual museum. The #MuseumFromHome collection bundles videos, articles, and even artist prompts. I, for one, can’t wait to absolutely devour the collection on The Female Gaze.

7. Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to way too many runs up the stairs reenacting the training montage from Rocky, but it’s also home to true genius. It doesn’t offer formal virtual museum programming, but its artist and makers page allows you to appreciate the selections of big-league players featured in the institution. If you want to be a little bit more acquainted with Rembrandt, Ed Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, they’re all waiting for you here.

8. The Art Institute of Chicago

There are two ways to enjoy the Art Institute of Chicago, a grand establishment filled with Renoirs and Van Goghs alike: You can turn to the spot’s excellent collection of online resources, including a full exploration of its recent exhibition, “El Greco: Ambition and Defiance.” And if that just feels like a lot, and you’re really just looking for some visual stimuli, check out 40 of their best selections in Google’s Arts and Culture’s section.

Final thought: Museums offer us tapestries of knowledge, history, joy, and enrichment. They should be free to everyone who wants to expand their mind and also look really fancy to their Tinder Date. But, if you have the ability to donate to your favorite institution, now’s a good time to do so. To the cute clerk at the Met who received a crumpled $2 donation the last time I visited, consider this an open apology. I’ll throw down something a little larger when I take a cyber stroll through the Egyptian exhibit.

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