At the moment, you are most likely stuck at home. I am too. You will probably have to stay locked in your place for a while. So what can you do to relieve the boredom?
Luckily today, technology brings us many more possibilities than what was available just a few years ago.
Our lives are virtual now. We work virtually, we keep in touch with friends and family virtually, so why not do cultural things virtually too?
I am a big museum buff, and decided to check whether any of the museums that I had visited in the past have any of their collections online. Turns out, most of the big museums can be visited virtually.
Of course, it’s not the same experience as actually being there, but it does satisfy your curiosity. It allows you to not only see some of the masterpieces that these museums house, but also to learn something about art, history, and nature in the process.
Below, I put together a list of some of my favorite museums, and the links to their virtual tours. Except for the Vatican Museum, I had visited all of them previously, and can vouch for their being quite exceptional.
As for the Vatican Museum, it was on the list for one of the trips that I had to cancel due to the current crisis. Now, I will have to experience it virtually. You can too!
Have a look and enjoy!
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum. I remember wandering its halls, and wondering how I am going to be able to see all the things that it contains. Normally, it takes several days of going around in order to see its main collections.
The museum houses some of the masterpieces of world heritage, such as the Mona Lisa (the painting is much smaller than I had imagined) by Leonardo da Vinci, or a large collection of Egyptian antiquities, including the famous Seated Scribe sculpture dating from 2300 B.C.
There are several online tours which you can do, and which are available here.
Hermitage, St. Petersburg
The Hermitage is the world’s second largest art museum. Located in the former Winter Palace, the residence of the Russian tsars, it houses huge collections of art from all eras, including numerous classical masters like Rembrandt or Rubens.
This is also one of those museums that you can spend days walking around, and always find something new. I was especially fascinated by all the history that happened in that palace, as well as all the paintings and historical objects that it contained.
British Museum, London
The British Museum is located in London, and has benefited greatly from Great Britain’s status of being the world’s most powerful country in the 19th century. The collections contain objects from all the different corners of the world.
Here you can access all the different things that the museum provides online, including searching through its collection, as well as different photos, and virtual tours. Here is a small virtual tour that is available.
If you are interested in history, the museum has also put up this interactive timeline of world history. It allows you to explore what happened in the world at different eras of the past through different objects in the museum.
Amsterdam is known as being a center of naughty pleasure, but it also contains lots of places of cultural significance. One of these is the Rijksmuseum, which houses a huge collection of Dutch masters.
Rembrandt made Amsterdam his home, so it is logical that the museum contains many of his masterpieces. However, other painters, such as Vermeer and Hals are also represented.
Vatican Museum, Vatican
The Vatican Museum is supposed to contain some magnificent masterpieces. Just the layout with the crazy stairs looks amazing. However, out of all the museums on the list, that’s the one I haven’t visited. I was planning to go, but unfortunately will have to postpone my trip.
For now, I am enjoying it virtually. Its signature work of art is the statue of Laocoon and His Sons, which is an ancient Roman statue discovered in the 16th century in a vineyard. This statue became the seed around which the museum grew.
The museum houses many ancient artifacts (especially statues), mostly Roman, but also Egyptian and others. There is also a huge collection of old religious art.
You can do a virtual visit of the Vatican Museum here.
National Museum, Prague
Prague is a beautiful city, which also has several nice museums. The chief of these museums is the National Museum, which is located at the top of Wenceslas Square, one of the city’s principal squares.
The museum houses several different collections and exhibits, ranging from history, natural history, as well as music. One of its premier collections is the Medieval Collection, made up of medieval art, weapons, and jewelry.
Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. has several nice museums, most of which you can visit for free. The Natural History Museum is the most visited museum of that type in the world.
There are many great exhibits, which let you learn about nature, not only animals, but also rocks and meteorites. There is also a section that deals with human cultural artifacts.
If you like dinosaurs, or want to know how humanity evolved, then this is the museum for you.
There is a nice virtual tour which allows you to view many of the different exhibits here.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
The Met is the largest art museum in the US, and is located in New York City. I remember that it was quite impressive, when I visited it.
It contains collections of art from all around the world. There are big ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman collections, but also collections from some other less-well known civilizations.
When you are walking through the museum, you can visit all the different continents, as it has extensive sections containing Asian, Middle Eastern, European, and African art.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
The National Gallery of Art is one of the museums located in Washington D.C. An interesting tidbit is that the beginning of the collection is made up of masterpieces that were sold by the Soviet government in the 1930’s, and originally came from the Hermitage Museum.
In the gallery, you can find some beautiful paintings by such great painters as Raphael or Titian. In addition, there is also a huge collection of rare prints, for example by guys like Edvard Munch.
You can explore some of the collections here.
Acropolis Museum, Athens
If you think of democracy, you think of Athens. This is where democracy started. The symbol of that city is the Acropolis, a hill full of temples that towers over the city.
Next to the hill, you can find the Acropolis Museum, which houses many of the original statues that used to be part of the temples on the hill, as well as many of the things that were excavated in the city.
In fact, the museum building is built over an excavation site, which you can see under your feet, because the floor outside the building is made of glass!
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Van Gogh is known as the painter who cut off his ear. During his lifetime, he was not very popular and died poor. However, after his death his fame exploded, and his paintings are now sold for millions of dollars.
Since he was a native of the Netherlands, there is a nice museum in Amsterdam, which contains many of his paintings.
You can do a virtual tour of the museum here.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Pergamon was a city in the ancient world that housed that era’s second largest library. It was a city of learning and splendor. In the 19th century German archaeologists excavated it, and brought many parts of it back to Berlin.
They basically took apart the Pergamon Altar, an entire building, an reconstructed it in the museum. This is what they did at some other excavations that they were participating in that century, among them the Ishtar Gate from Babylon, and the Market Gate of Miletus.
Imagine, this museum has entire buildings inside it! There is a nice virtual visit of the museum available here.
Didn’t find your museum? Lots more that you can explore online!
Many of these virtual tours were done through Google Arts and Culture. On their site, you can explore over 2000 other museums and sites. So you will never run out of places to visit!
If this is not enough, you can always also go on Youtube. There I also found many interesting videos showing different museums, as well as all kinds of topics of interest. Another site that I would recommend is the Europeana site. This site gathers together art from different galleries and museums around Europe.
Feeling creative? Some projects you can do at home by yourself or with your kids
Feeling creative? You can actually reuse a lot of the content on Europeana for your own projects!
Most of the works of art that you browse on the site can be reused under the Creative Commons license. For example, if you want to create a mashup, or some sort of a game with the content, that’s great. The only limit is your own creativity.
You can make it a project with your kids. This way, not only will you learn things about art, history, and culture, but you can also learn some technical skills as well.
Since a lot of schools are closed, this could be an interesting way to make learning fun for your kids.
You can enjoy the collections on Europeana in many different ways. Not just with your eyes, but you can also get quite hands on!
Maybe this will give you some inspiration, not only on how to spend your free time, but also to get your creative juices flowing.