March 21, 2020

Words & Illustration: J. Scott Stratton

Virtual Museum Tours: Art from your couch
As museums, galleries and theatres are all shutting down for a global lockdown, and there is still hope for the art industry. Virtual museum tours could be the ticket to keeping art alive through hard times.

W ithin weeks social distancing and self-isolation have become a ubiquitous part of Global society. Yet, how is that affecting the galleries and museums around the world? And how can we make sure all that beautiful art is still seen? Enter virtual museum tours.

Fortunately, we live in a time where nearly everything has a digital footprint, and those footprints have been mapped—by Google. It may have been a little-known fact just a couple of weeks ago, at least to me, but many of the major museums around the world have had their halls mapped by Google Street Maps. Extensively enough, that as far as a digital art experience is concerned, it’s top-notch.

So should you run out of TV to stream, or reading about how to feed the hype beast, I have put together a list of Museums around the world that you can spend trying to soak up as much culture as you can.

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

If this is your first stop on today’s virtual museum tours, then get yourself a nice cup of tea and let me tell you that the experience is good—but it takes a bit of getting used to. You can get relatively close to most of the paintings. There are “X’s” on the floor in front of most works, which indicate a viewpoint. However, there is some warping due to how the Google 360 camera captured the space.

Screenshot from virtual Musée d’Orsay exhibition

As far as what the Musée d’Orsay has to offer, the Paris tourist office states that it is “Internationally renowned for its rich collection of Impressionist art…and also displays all Western artistic creation from 1848 to 1914.”

Screenshot of the Musée d’Orsay mapped by Google

Guggenheim Museum, NYC

The Guggenheim doesn’t need much introduction, but what does is the extensive amount of work they have put into making a fantastic digital experience from what is one of the world’s most iconic architectural structures.

Their “Guggenheim From Home” virtual exhibit can be accompanied by a 9-part audio tour from 99% Invisible’s Roman Mars on the Museum’s Architecture.

If that is not enough, there is a whole playlist of Live from the Guggenheim videos available on YouTube.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea

The MMCA has four virtual exhibitions that you can tour. A slideshow tour of the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Korean Modern Masters: Yoo Youngkuk 1916~2002. A retrospective web tour of the Park Hyun-Ki exhibition and his lifetime of groundbreaking video and installation art.

There is also a 3 section guided web tour of the exhibition ‘Garden‘ currently on exhibition in MMCA Seoul.

(installation view) Park Myung-rae, 2015, From the collection of: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Van Gogh Museum

With four floors to explore in and hundreds of paintings to browse in a Google Street view, plus two digital exhibitions, ‘Which Books did Vincent van Gogh Read’ and ‘Vincent van Gogh’s love life‘ there is a good amount of time that you can kill.

screen shot of ‘Piles of French Novels’ by Vincent van Gogh

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

If you are feeling particularly nostalgic for American history, DC’s national museum is featuring a digital exhibition of “more than 18,000 watercolor renderings of American decorative art objects from the colonial period through the 19th Century’ in the ‘Fashioning of a Nation.’

In addition, there is a secondary digital exhibition on ‘Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting’. And if that is not enough to occupy you, Google’s Art & Culture has cataloged over 42,462 images of artistic works associated with DC’s National Gallery of Art.

Gown, Lillian Causey, c. 1940, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

And the list goes on…

In doing the research into Google’s Arts & Culture website—something I must admit I am ashamed for not being familiar with prior to the global lockdown—I found that their cataloging of the world’s museums is far too robust to contain in one article. The aforementioned museums are the one that I found to be most interesting.

However, if those were not your taste, here are a few others:


alhaço com buzina reta – monte de irônicos (2007) by Laura Lima MAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo


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