As the world slowly starts to wake up from the year-long nightmare that has been the COVID-19 crisis, we find ourselves stuck in an odd time.
Some people are vaccinated, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that certain things, like fully vaccinated gatherings, are safe. Some states, such as Texas, have even begun to open completely, returning to business as usual.
However, the United States is still averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, according to the New York Times. According to Fortune, less than a quarter of Americans have been fully vaccinated as of April 8. With the new British COVID-19 strain reportedly moving through America, it is clear we are not yet ready to return to life as usual.
One of the things I miss most about normal life is museum visits. I used to spend weekends at the small museum at Monmouth Battlefield State Park or the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. I would often travel into New York City to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Frick Collection. I would bring my mother, my grandmother or a few friends. These trips were always fun, and I miss what I would learn from these institutions.
Fortunately, several museums and galleries are now offering free virtual tours, mainly through the Google Arts & Culture program.
Through this program, museums can host online exhibits or stories, which act as short presentations. Museums can also offer a gallery view of their pieces, which can be organized by color palette, time period or popularity. They also have a museum view option, which allows patrons to explore the museum using Google Maps street view.
I have already spent countless hours scrolling through paintings, sculptures, photos and historical pieces all from the comfort of my sofa.
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Museu de Arte de São Paulo are just a few prolific museums that participate in this program. I found the Van Gogh Museum to be especially fascinating. These pages can easily be accessed by searching these museums at https://artsandculture.google.com/.
Beyond the Google Arts & Culture program, other museums are forming their own interactive virtual tours.
The British Museum in London has created an interactive gallery organized by continent and date. This program resembles a guitar and even makes music when you scroll through the time periods. This gallery can also be filtered by category to focus on art, religious pieces or trade items. This program can be found at https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com/.
The Louvre Museum in Paris offers a long list of virtual tours, as well as films, concerts and conferences. They are in French, but closed captioning is available. I’m looking forward to the Les Fables de La Fontaine concert on April 21. A full list of the Louvre’s events and tours can be found at https://www.louvre.fr/en/online-tours#tabs.
Several YouTubers have also created virtual walking tours of famous museums and galleries. I highly recommend “WASHINGTON DC Smithsonian Museum of American History Tour” from Urbanist: Exploring Cities, which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t5pzDSqc2k. The “A World of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art” tour from Great Museums was also fantastic. This tour can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHrmoSlfLD0.
I still miss being able to physically go to a museum, but virtual programs provide dozens of options, including being able to “travel” to museums in different states and countries that would otherwise be inaccessible. As we wait to reenter the world, I recommend trying a virtual museum tour.