It’s not just a short walk through one or two rooms in each museum. In fact, most virtual reality tours and digital exhibits are deep enough to warrant multiple ‘trips’.
Take some time every month to explore these museums; you will 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 that visitors can explore from a distance. One feature, called “The Museum of the World”, allows visitors to take self-guided tours through a digital timeline, with pop-up details on hundreds of individual artifacts.
You can explore Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Additionally, there are five thoughtful and intriguing categories of artifacts to view along the individual interactive timelines:
- “Art and design”
- “Live and Die”
- “Power and identity”
- “Religion and Belief”
- “Trade and Conflict”
Through a partnership with Google, the British Museum also has an interactive street tour available throughout the museum. You can virtually “walk” through different exhibits on the different floors and sections of the museum.
There are also a whopping 51 specially curated digital exhibits, each offering in-depth insight into a specific time period, exhibit or individual artifact.
While you may not be able to visit New York City’s Guggenheim in person at this time, you can still check out the stunning collections online! The museum offers five unique exhibits curated for online visitors, including a history of Latin American art, an exhibition of contemporary art from South and Southeast Asia, and a feature on Josef Albers’ glassware.
You can also take a virtual reality tour of the museum through various Google Street Views. These “walking tours” allow visitors to explore different levels and wings of the museum, so it is well worth a visit.
If you’ve ever been curious about modern art, these virtual exhibits are a way to learn about it under low pressure.
The National Gallery of Art
Located in Washington, DC, the National Gallery of Art is literally the United States’ national museum. Visiting the museum’s virtual exhibits allows you to view over 40,000 individual artworks, artifacts, documents, and more.
The museum has also curated two unique exhibits for remote guests: “Fashioning a Nation” and “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting.” The National Gallery is also partnering with the Google 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 in South Korea, and its sites in Seoul, Gwacheon, Deoksugung, and Cheongju have opened their digital doors to online visitors around the world.
Eight unique digital exhibits guide visitors through a variety of artworks 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 self-guided ‘walking tours’ through the indoor and outdoor exhibits of all four of the museum’s branches. You can zoom in on individual paintings in Deoksugung, stroll past 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
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world. And now you can watch them from the comfort of your own home. The museum offers more than 160 detailed digital scans of items from its collections.
For those interested in learning more about Van Gogh’s life, the museum offers a few online mini-exhibitions: one on the books he read and which inspired him, and another on his personal life.
If you’d rather just take a stroll through Van Gogh’s masterpieces, you can too! With the digital walk-through you can zoom in on documents much closer than you can personally. A timeline along the top of the walls will help you keep track of where you are and where you’ve been. This way, if you return for multiple visits, you can pick up where you left off.
Travel to one of the most beautiful museums in Paris without leaving home. The Musée d’Orsay’s online offering includes more than 270 individual items from 1848-1914, complete with in-depth information on the historical and artistic backgrounds of each. It’s like a crash course in art history, but interactive and more self-guided than any class.
You can also wander around the halls of the museum, which is located in a former train station (there is also a digital exhibition that traces the history of the building). Maybe you choose to walk through a vaulted corridor full of beautiful sculptures, or you appreciate the pop-up notations when you walk past a work of art that has a profound function in the digital collection. It’s an easy way to pass an hour (or more).
Museum of Art of São Paulo
The Museu de Arte de São Paulo is Brazil’s first modern museum. It has acquired a wonderful collection since its inception in 1947. While personal visits are off the table, viewing the exhibits is not.
You can explore more than 1,000 individual works of art, from photographs and paintings to sculptures, stones 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 to 1900”
- “Art from France: from Delacroix to Cézanne”
- “Photo gallery in transformation”
- Histories of Madness: The Drawings of Juquery
As you ‘walk’ through an interactive Google Street View tour of the museum, pop-up windows appear when you are near a work of art. You can click on this for more information about the history and meaning of a piece.
The Louvre museum
If a visit to the iconic Louvre is on your bucket list, you can get a head start through its virtual tours and exhibits. While there is no option to virtually walk through the entire museum, seven online tours are available of select exhibits, past and present. Any of these are well worth a visit:
- “The arrival 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 ancient times to the present day.
- “The body in motion ”: An exploration of how artists depict movement (in particular dance).
- Founding Myths: From Hercules to Darth Vader: How Myths Affected Art.
- “Egyptian Antiquities”: A tour of the Louvre’s pharaonic collections.
- “Remains of the moat of the Louvre”: A tour of the history of the museum as a fortress.
- “Apollo Gallery”: A tour of the historic gallery with links to France’s golden times.
The Eternal City is a wealth of beautiful buildings and works of art. 12 virtual tours are offered on the Vatican’s website, for an immersive look at some of the most stunning art in the Western world.
While there aren’t as many interactive features as some of the other museums on our list (no clickable pop-ups), the passageways of the Vatican’s famous halls, chapels and museums are stunning. 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 an extensive collection of fine art, visit the Getty Museum virtually on various tours, and still only scratch the surface! At this California-based museum, online visitors can discover more than 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 like.
The Getty has also collected 24 individual curated exhibits for digital tours. Some offer a broader history, others delve deeper into individual pieces or artists. In many cases, the exhibits are about unexpected, current or unique topics, instead of the standard things you are used to seeing in an art museum.
You can explore the history of the museum through “Pride at the Getty” and then get up close to a particular French agency from the 18th century. You may want to explore the art history of and in Notre Dame or gasp at the hilariously strange art in “Fantastic Beasts of the Middle Ages”.
It is art history like you have never experienced it before.
The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
If you’ve ever found modern art a little intimidating, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art’s virtual reality tours may change your mind. More than 200,000 individual pieces are on display for visitors to learn more about. A virtual Street View tour lets you explore every nook and cranny of New York City’s landmark while getting helpful pop-up links explaining the history of each piece.
The Met has also collected 31 curated online exhibits. For the most part, they are evenly spread across the Met’s two iconic niches: visual arts and fashion. Fashion enthusiasts can get a closer look at exhibits from iconic designers such as Worth, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Dior and more.
Visual art nerds will enjoy the in-depth look at the symbolism in Vermeer’s work, Rodin’s individual pieces or the representation of music in art over the years. Even virtually there is an infinite amount to discover.
Western museums may have collected antiquities over the centuries, but why not go straight to the source? The Egyptian Museum of Cairo offers virtual tours of the most famous exhibits, such as the “Tut Hall”, featuring artifacts from the time of King Tut, including his famous golden mask. Virtual tourists can also walk the halls and zoom in on a wide variety of ancient Egyptian artifacts.
While the option is to actually ‘walk’ through the museum, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities also offers virtual tours of the following historical sites: