One of the unexpected things that I’ve missed while sheltering at home is the ability to wander. There is something renewing in losing yourself in your surroundings and opening your mind to the colors, ideas, and inspiration around you.
Museums are one of my favorite places to wander. In my home town of San Francisco, I love walking through Golden Gate Park before tucking into the cool marble of the De Young. Sometimes the allure is an exhibit, the pieces drawing me in, and other times it’s simply the experience of taking in the sights and sounds on a slow afternoon.
Recently I searched for a virtual museum tour to see if I could at least partially replicate that experience from my living room. I was surprised to find many museums now offer virtual exhibits in the form of video walk-throughs, street-view style exhibits, and collections of high-definition images.
People approach museums and art in different ways and what we want out of a trip to the museum can vary depending on our mood. I’ve curated a list of museums that you can visit online, broken down by interaction-type. Whether you fancy poring over the Getty’s collections in high-definition, you’re looking for a virtual museum tour for kids, or like me, you’re attempting to turn your living room into a lazy Saturday at the Louvre, there is something on the list for you.
Museum tour videos
Video walk-throughs are great way to get the feel of what it’s like to be at the world’s most popular museums and historical sites.
The point of the silent video walk-through isn’t to study pieces, read the plaques, or have an in depth educational experience. The beauty is in being able to see these incredible institutions as if you were wandering through them, yourself.
Something that many of us have been yearning for while stuck at home: the ease of a day at the museum. This time without the cost, the flights, and with the long lines edited out.
Check these out when you are in the mood for a low-effort meander, some museum ambiance, or pop them on for a fun at-home date or family activity.
FYI: The people-watching is almost as entertaining as the art.
2 hours of high quality walking footage. Check out the description of the video if you would like to jump ahead to a particular room or attraction. I recently enjoyed watching this one with my partner during an at-home afternoon tea, scones and all.
Many museums offer the option to visit their museum virtually using an interactive 360 degree view. A couple offer this directly on their websites, while others are available through Google Arts and Culture.
These are a great way to immerse yourself in a museum and move through at your own pace.
FYI: You won’t be able to view the pieces up close in high-definition. For that you’ll want to check out the last section of this article.
Choose from 7 different exhibits to walk through on the Louvre’s official website.
The Vatican offers 11 different 360 views on their official website.
FYI: It’s really easy to navigate the view up, down, and side-to-side but moving within the room feels clunky and each step takes a few seconds. Plan to pop in and enjoy the view from where you stand, the rooms are ornate and beautiful and a bonus – there are no crowds!
The met 360 project hosts a series of videos shot with a 360 camera. Orient the view 360 degrees as you walk through the exhibits. This can be done with your mouse on your computer, or for the full experience, check out the videos on your phone and use to phone as a viewfinder to look around.
Google Arts and Culture
Google Arts and Culture is an initiative in which Google has partnered with over 2500 art institutions and historical sites to make cultural content more widely available. The site offers high definition images, interactive walkthroughs using Google Street View, VR tours, and a lot more in the way of activities and information. Seriously, there is so much available on there that you could get lost for hours. These also serve as great virtual tours for kids, for those of you who are looking for some extra educational content for homeschooling.
Tip – download the Google Arts and Culture app to your phone, it makes the Google Street View a lot more fun because you can move your phone to look around, or view the VR exhibits if you have a Google Cardboard.
Guggenheim (NY + Spain)
High Definition Collections
There’s no real substitute for studying a piece of art up-close but when IRL isn’t an option, high-definition images are the next best thing to seeing the greats in-person. Incredible masterpieces that you previously could only see with the grainy quality of a textbook photo are now available in incredible detail online.
The Pinterest style format of the Art Institute Chicago makes it easy to browse their many pieces in a way that feels modern and fun.
The British Museum gets extra creativity points for their “Museum of the World” in partnership with Google. The timeline format allows you to filter by type, time, and subject, and each piece or artifact comes with a description and audio clip.
The Getty, Uffizi, MOMA, and more
Again, Google Arts and Culture hits it out of the park. They have thousands of collections of artwork, click here to see the full list by museum, including the Getty (LA), Uffizi (Florence), MOMA (NYC) and more.
There is no wrong way to view art. I hope that this list serves as a source of inspiration for you to explore in a way that feels good for you, from home.