Museums offer unique educational experiences, and now, thanks to the internet, they’re more accessible than ever before. Seeing art or fossils digitally is undoubtedly a different experience then seeing them in real life, but virtual museum tours open up a world of wonder that you ordinarily might need a passport or long flight to see. You can now tour a museum on your schedule, seeing exactly what sparks your interest. It’s also a good idea to check for any virtual events your favorite museum offers to find lectures, behind-the-scenes opportunities, and to hear inspiring stories about the people, places, and things that have made this world what it is.
Virtual art museum tours
Learning about art is essential for understanding history and culture, fostering empathy and critical thinking. Art aficionados can view the works of well-known masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci as well as modern and contemporary creators like Basquiat and Picasso — all through virtual museum tours.
- The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City is a world-class museum, and has more than 90,000 works of modern and contemporary art, film, and sculpture available to view and experience on their website. Check out the Virtual Views page for specific events, including guide virtual experiences from museum curators and artists. Currently, MOMA offers a Virtual View of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, allowing you to explore the masterpiece in 3D and listen to a theatrical reading of letters between Van Gogh and his brother Theo.
- The Louvre Museum in Paris also offers online tours. Most notably, they offer a virtual reality (VR) experience of the Mona Lisa. The experience comes in the form of a free, downloadable app, and includes an immersive experience that details the latest research on Leonardo da Vinci.
- You can explore the Rijksmusem in Amsterdam using an app that includes multimedia experiences. The app offers set routes through which to explore the museum, and also allows you to customize your own exploration. The up-close views of Dutch masters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt are a must-see.
- Tour the Brant Foundation Art Study Center’s Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition in a 360 VR exploration of this prolific artist’s unique work.
- Go room by room in the Museu Picasso in Barcelona with their free virtual tour, created by the museum’s head of security. The in-depth and personal look at Picasso’s artwork details his growth as an artist and his work through the years.
Virtual natural history museum tours
Natural history isn’t just about dinosaurs (though, obviously, those exhibits are dino-mite). When you take a virtual tour of a natural history museum, you’ll also likely learn about human history, animals, oceans, geology, and much more. Museums in your area may also have exhibits dedicated to the natural environment and history specific to where you live.
- The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. offers virtual tours of current and past exhibits, including narrated tours to guide your learning along the way. Explore their expansive collection of fossils or the ocean hall. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is also a must-see, detailing the civil rights movement, hip hop and music, and literature.
- The Natural History Museum in London offers a variety of unique virtual tours, from a guided exploration of their Hintze Hall exhibit (with Sir David Attenborough narrating!) to 3D modelling fossils found by Charles Darwin.
- The American Museum of Natural History offers a free app to download, allowing you to explore the museum and learn about it’s contents with videos, quizzes, and augmented reality (AR). They even have prerecorded virtual field trips for kids to experience and learn about animals and human life throughout history.
- The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles offers virtual tours of their award-winning Dinosaur Hall in English, Spanish, Korean, and Mandarin.
Virtual science museum tours
Technology has come a long way. From advancements in medicine to flight to predictions for the future, exploring how science has moved our world forward is important and inspiring — especially for young minds. Many science museums include fun experiments that you can try at home to take your learning even farther. It’s time to get inspired.
- With the online tours offered by the Museum of Flight, you can explore 360-degree tours and panoramas, experiencing the interior of Air Force One and a NASA space shuttle trainer.
- The Smithsonian National Space and Air Museum includes a vast video library, live events, and explores the science in fictional stories in their Science Fiction online exhibit, like Star Trek and Star Wars.
- And the National Museum of Computing offers a virtual museum tour to explore the world’s largest collection of working historic computers.
Other virtual museum tours and experiences
The Google Arts & Culture project takes virtual museum tours a step farther. Partnering with over 2,500 museums and galleries, Google provides a window into some of the most popular museums on the planet using their Google Maps functionality (which allow you to click through a panoramic view). The project also brings you unique virtual experiences. You can color your own version of famous works of art, take art selfies, play games, and more. Finally, Google offers the Street Art project, exploring graffiti and street art all over the world.
Many museums also have YouTube channels, like the Broad Museum, which includes interviews, videos of exhibits, and DIY art projects. Others have Pinterest boards to collect pieces that inspire you, like the Fashion and Textile Museum. Social media is a great way to experience the arts from your mobile device, so be sure to check if your favorite museum has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even a TikTok account.
The benefits of virtual tours
While a virtual visit can’t duplicate the experience of seeing a work of art up close and in 3D detail, or take the place of standing before a looming skeleton of a T-Rex, it can provide in-depth, behind-the-scenes, and interactive views that you can’t get in person. Virtual visits can also provide benefits for visitors who normally have difficulties navigating popular attractions, making these top spots more accessible to everyone.
Explore other virtual experiences:
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