Virtual tours of museums and galleries to experience on lockdown
- Deborah Chu
- 22 April 2020
Tate Britain / credit: Francisco Anzola
Experience the National Museum of Scotland, the Rijksmuseum and Tate Britain as never before, and find out how these institutions are keeping us curious during the pandemic
There's nothing quite like gazing upon an ancient artefact or a great masterpiece in person. Though your own Grand Tour will have to be put on hold for the present – with museums and galleries shut for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus outbreak – that isn't to say that the great cultural and artistic treasures of the world are completely out of reach. Many such institutions now offer virtual tours of their collections, so you can now witness the Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile, or savour the drama of The Night Watch, without being elbowed out of the way by hordes of tourists.
Plus, many of their staff are taking their passion online, and posting activities and informative videos about the stories behind these incredible riches. We've compiled a short list of the many museums and galleries around the world keeping us inspired and curious during the lockdown.
National Museum of Scotland
Start close to home with a tour of the National Museum of Scotland via Google Street View, and explore over 20,000 objects on display in the museum's collection. Bask in the light-filled atrium of the Grand Gallery – a remarkable feat of Victorian engineering and design – and discover exhibitions dedicated to the cultures of the world, the history of science and technology, the vital biodiversity around us and the great mysteries and natural splendours of our planet. Their website also has an excellent variety of activity resources and games for the wee ones (or the big'uns), like building robots, fighting off parasites and designing wind farms.
Visit the National Museum of Scotland.
London's Tate Britain is famous for its extensive collection of British art, including masterworks by Turner, Hogarth, Tracey Emin, Tacita Dean and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, you can now get up close and personal to iconic works such as John Everett Millais' Ophelia, John Singer Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and John William Waterhouse's The Lady of Shalott without getting told off – though you still can't touch the art. Their @tate_kids Twitter account also regularly posts art activities that families can do together using household materials already at hand.
Visit Tate Britain.
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum offers up an incredible interactive experience through their new online platform, Masterpieces Up Close. The multimedia guide offers viewers a 360 degree, high-resolution experience of their famous Gallery of Honour, which houses Rembrandt's The Night Watch, The Jewish Bride, Vermeer's The Milkmaid and many more. Audiences can 'walk' through the gallery at their own pace, zoom in on every detail and listen to short videos, audio and text descriptions behind 18 different paintings. The Rijksmuseum's curators are also uploading short English language videos from home under the hashtag #Rijksmuseumfromhome, wherein they share stories about their favourite works of art.
Visit the Rijksmuseum.
There's very little actual 'British' stuff at the British Museum, which mostly houses historical artefacts 'brought over' from colonies in the British Empire. So if you're looking for a one-stop shop to view some of the most culturally significant items from countries spanning the globe, the British Museum's virtual tour and galleries will allow you to examine the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles up-close. They've also set up a handy toolkit for audiences at home to get the most out of their staggeringly-large collections, including their podcast, a range of digital resources for homeschool and their Curators Corner series on YouTube. Join in on the conversation about our world heritage with the hashtag #MuseumFromHome.
Visit the British Museum.
J Paul Getty Museum
Located in California, the J Paul Getty Museum offers a virtual tour of their collections, dating from the 8th through to the 21st century, with a wide range of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and photography from Europe and America. Over at their Twitter @GettyMuseum, they've been encouraging people to recreate their favourite work of art using objects from around the house, with some pretty incredible results.
Visit the J Paul Getty Museum.
Natural History Museum
Though our opportunities to go outside are quite limited at present, London's Natural History Museum is hosting a #NatureDrawingClub over on their Twitter @NHM_London, with a different theme each week to help participants get creative and observe the world around them in new ways. You can also go on a virtual tour of the beautiful Victorian era premises, take an interactive look at Hintze Hall's famous gilded canopy, and even be guided through the collections by the unmistakably sonorous voice of the great Sir David Attenborough.
Visit the Natural History Museum.
Browse through the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world, housed in the glorious Beaux-Arts building. The Musée d'Orsay contains works by great painters such as Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne and Georges Seurat, as well as many iconic works by Vincent Van Gogh, including Bedroom in Arles, The Church at Auvers and Portrait of Dr Gachet. The museum edifice is a marvel in and of itself: be sure to take a look at the famous Musée d'Orsay Clock and the high, soaring arches of the former railway station.
Visit the Musée d'Orsay.
Another unmissable stop on your virtual tour of Paris' treasure is, of course, the Louvre. Their website allows you online access to their famed Apollo Gallery, the remains of the Louvre's moat, their collection of Egyptian antiquities and their exhibition The Advent of the Artist, which focuses on works by Delacroix, Rembrandt and Tintoretto.
Visit the Louvre.
Frequently cited as one of the most important works of architectural design in the modern era, the contemporary art gallery in Spain's Basque country is itself a striking masterstroke of titanium and steel by the great Frank Gehry. Take a stroll around the landmark building on the banks of the Nervión River, before venturing inside to view works by the likes of Rothko, Holzer, Koons and Kapoor. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation are also running a range of online programmes while their museums are closed, including weekly #sketchwithJeff sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays in April, at-home art classes on select Mondays and Thursdays, and Guggenheim Family Tours on select Sundays.
Visit Guggenheim Bilbao and view the Guggenheim's online resources.
The National Gallery
London's National Gallery allows you to take a 360 degree tour of its collection, as well as a VR tour of its iconic Sainsbury Wing. As one of the most acclaimed collections of European art in the world, virtual visitors can view over 300 works by masters like Titian, Holbein and Veronese. Their YouTube channel and online resources also offers curator-led tours of important pieces and stories to be found in the gallery, such as one on the pictorial significance of arrows in art, as well as the famous female protagonists in art history.
Visit the National Gallery.
Despite not having a virtual tour available, Edinburgh's Ingleby Gallery is exploring new ways to bring their ambitious exhibitions and collections to our homes. One of the country's leading private galleries, Ingleby Gallery has taken to Instagram with 'an exhibition that isn't an exhibition,' titled The Unseen Masterpiece. Every day of the lockdown until the gallery is able to open its doors again, Ingleby posts a new work in a rolling sequence by an artist who has exhibited in the gallery before. At the end of each week, an email is sent out summarising the latest five-day sequence, alongside the release of a newly-commissioned film made by one of the highlighted artists.
View The Unseen Masterpiece on Ingleby Gallery's Instagram
Who needs Google Street View when you can explore the renowned sculpture park via Minecraft? In a truly interactive twist on the virtual tour, the virtual version of Jupiter Artland will allow young people to build proposals for their own sculptural art to be added to the online collection. Moreover, artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Sara Barker and Shane Waltener are curating a series of creative activities for people to do while on lockdown, titled Notes from Jupiter. Teenagers are also invited to share their experiences under quarantine with artist Peter Liversidge, which will ultimately be incorporated into a new sign painting that will be unveiled at the (real) Jupiter Artland later this summer.
Visit Jupiter Minecraft and access Notes from Jupiter
Located in the south west of Scotland, CAMPLE LINE is an indie arts organisation dedicated to contemporary art and film. Though the COVID-19 outbreak has had to delay the opening of their newest exhibition, Helen Mirra's Acts for placing woollen and linen, they've provided a virtual walkthrough of Mirra's project Standard Incomparable, which was first shown at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California, and is composed of textile works from 16 different artists from around the world. The CAMPLE LINE team are also assembling a vibrant online programme for spring, which including a writing project and workshop with Victoria Miguel centred on artist and composer John Cage's method of 'writing through', a virtual weaving project and film available to live stream from their website.
View Standard Incomparable and access CAMPLE LINE's online programme
In February and March 2020, Edinburgh's artist-run organisation Rhubaba commissioned the artistic duo Bureau d'études to do a survey of Scottish communities and their diverse ways of making, from crofting and farming to archaeology and art practices. Their prescient findings will now be available to be viewed online in farewell, Art, opening 16 May, and which draws upon Bureau d'études to suggest that we are on the brink of social and cultural collapse due to looming ecological catastrophe. Not the cheeriest of topics, especially during a global pandemic, but deeply thought-provoking nonetheless.
View farewell, Art from 16 May—26 Jun
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the preeminent art collections in the world, explore New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (more affectionately known as just 'the Met') through The Met 360° Project, which allows viewers on lockdown to behold the incredible building and its artistic gems from a new perspective. They also have a packed schedule of virtual events that will delight the whole family, from sketching to storytime sessions, as well as an online primer to their various exhibitions, a series of online audio guides and handy lesson plans for parents homeschooling the wee ones.
Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Located in the American capital, the Smithsonian currently hosts a series of virtual tours through its permanent collection, as well as exhibitions past and present. They've also uploaded content from their exhibition Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World, which helps shed light on our current situation. They've also got a staggering array of online resources to help keep us learning, from their science webcast Science How, and their Human Origins website, which considers the roots of humankind's family tree and how we've evolved through time.
Visit the Smithsonian