Celebrating International Museum Day 2020 - A WORLD OF MUSEUMS TO EXPLORE FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR SOFA
There is a reason why people who build museums invest a great deal of time employing the right architect and agonising over the finer details of the visitor experience: nothing compares to an immersive, multi-sensory exploration of the physical space. However, as the coronavirus crisis pandemic escalated, many of the world’s galleries and museums were forced to shut their doors to the public.
Keen for people to be able to access their collections remotely, many were quick to make virtual tours of their collections available online. These do not compare to actually visiting the venue, but they are free and they provide a taster of what is on offer behind these temporarily closed doors.
One of the things that brought the Wild & Fine team together is our love of travel and a key part of discovering a new place is exploring its museums and galleries. They provide an insight into the mentality of a location and are a rich source of inspiration for our various chosen vocations, be it silver-smithing, photography or writing.
From the tiny, obscure collections hidden on quiet side streets to the gigantic nationals with their big budgets and large crowds, we are always drawn to these carefully curated collections. Since our wings have been clipped by the restrictions of lockdown, we are forced to re-live past trips or daydream about new adventures from the confines of our laptop screens. Here is our pick of virtual tours, which we hope will help you while away a bit of enforced downtime and may even inspire you to plan a future visit once normality returns.
Visits to the Natural History Museum as a child were generally rated by the amount of time it took to zoom past the cases of preserved treasures in order to reach the gift shop! These days we bypass the commercial aspect altogether and head straight for the Hintze Hall, a treasure trove of specimens where we never fail to be impressed by the diversity and resilience of life on Earth.
Never heard of this museum? That may be because it does not have a physical location. There are plans to establish a bricks-and-mortar home for it in Washington D.C., but for now it is the only one of our selection to be entirely used to interacting with the public in an online-only capacity. The museum’s website resources allow you to discover the recipes favoured by some of America’s first ladies, learn about the history of women’s basket ball, explore the stories of the women of the Civil Rights movement and get swept up in the glamorous world of early Hollywood starlets (amongst many other things).
Famously home to the iconic Mona Lisa, the Louvre museum building provides a unique insight into 800 years of French history. It is the most visited museum in the world, welcoming 10 million people to its galleries and exhibitions every year. If crowds were never your thing (even before social distancing) then you will be delighted to know that there is a wealth of online resources available to help you experience the Louvre without having to leave the comfort of your favourite armchair.
The British Museum has gone all out to offer anyone who is interested the opportunity to experience its collections from home. Providing eleven different ways to explore the museum, including a Google Street View tour, the British Museum podcast, audio tours and YouTube videos, this is one of the most comprehensive online museum experiences we have come across. That’s two million years of human history, art and culture at your fingertips, in whichever medium you find most enjoyable!
Even before the COVID-19 crisis forced it to close its doors, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History had published 2.8 million images of artefacts and specimens from its collections for public use, many of which are available to view in 3D. But this is not all that it is offering to online visitors; you can take virtual tours of current or past exhibitions, watch Dr. Hans Sues talk about palaeontology and discover what it is like to be a forensic anthropologist via their Written in Bone online exhibit.
Our favourite of the ways you can interact with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History online is their Ocean Portal, which provides in-depth information about all things sea-related – from the challenges of climate change to the life and times of penguins, it is perfect for anyone hungry for ocean-based facts.
Referred to as The Museum of Museums, the Vatican is home to a treasure trove of art, architecture and archaeology. Currently closed to the public, it is possible to enjoy 360 degree virtual tours of some of the Vatican’s most historical significant rooms, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Room and the private chapel of Pope Nicholas V, the Niccoline Chapel.
We giggled at Georgia O’Keeffe paintings at school; the subtly suggestive paintings of flowers and the abstracts that seemed to be largely inspired by fallopian tubes counted as entertainment in GCSE art on an otherwise dull afternoon. As grown ups we are not above snickering at a flower that looks remarkably like a lady part, but we have also developed an appreciation of what O’Keeffe achieved as a leading female artist in the 20th century.
The online collections available via the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum make it possible to fully immerse yourself in the life of the artist; view her paintings and photographs, read her letters, explore her library and even visit the veggie garden at her Abiquiú house in New Mexico.
This contemporary art museum showcases a collection of works from 1950 to the present day. Committed to continuing its good work from behind closed doors, the gallery’s #TheBroadFromHome initiative allows us to be inspired by its collections from a safe distance.
We love the Infinite Drone Series, which pairs Yayoi Kusama's popular installation the Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away with a range of soundtracks including drone, electronic, ambient, and pop music. There are probably a number of deep and meaningful interpretations you can take away from these, but it is also enjoyable to just sit quietly and watch the hypnotic effect of the infinitely reflected coloured lights as they flash on and fade away.
Neither a museum nor a gallery, we couldn’t resist adding the Monterey Bay Aquarium to our list. It has an impressive selection of live webcams to browse and the therapeutic effect of watching sharks cruising their tanks and tiny, brightly colour fish darting amongst the coral is a welcome break from the cultural heritage overload in the list above!
If you have discovered any other unmissable virtual tours during lockdown, do share them with us. At the very least they will help us procrastinate our next important project (always very welcome) and at best they with be the perfect inspiration for our next adventure.