Saturday, September 11, 2021

Virtual Museum Tours for a Rainy Saturday

In my last post, I focused on virtual travel.  On this rainy Saturday, I decided it would be nice to visit a museum without having to get in the car or put my mask on.  And there are so many options …


The Museum Computer Network (MCN, advancing digital transformation in museums) has put together an extensive list of museums containing virtual content, which it claims to be continually updating.   The list includes portals, virtual tours and online exhibits, e-learning, content created for kids, online collections, science collections, history collections, and digital archives and libraries.  Almost all of the resources are available for free.  As an additional resource, MCN also links to the 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World, featuring art, history, science and technology exhibits.


I explored a few of the options on the museum list and was blown away.


The Louvre Museum (Paris, France) website allows you to visit the museum from your desktop.  Pick a gallery, and you’re taken on a personal tour.  Some of the tours are a slide show mimicking your actual walk through the space, and some are 360o videos.  The tours highlight the art on display, as well as some of the Louvre’s stunning architecture.  Clicking on the “i” button next to specific displays brings up detailed information about that part of the exhibit.  The only thing missing is the café and croissant.


The virtual tour of the NASA Langley Research Center includes a series of slides and a short narrated video of each major building on the campus.  Many of the buildings can also be visited via a 360o photo.  This virtual tour could be a great way to “host” a field trip for K-12 students studying the history of space travel.  Followed by watching JFK Moonshot, a virtual recreation of the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first man on the moon.


The Städel Museum (Frankfurt, Germany) has created an interactive time machine, in which the virtual visitor is guided through 200 years of the museum’s history.  You can see a painting in the current collection as it was displayed 200 years ago, and learn about the history of the painting and how critics’ opinions and analysis of the art have changed over the years.  With additional software and use of a virtual reality headset, it’s as close to time travel as you can get.


Many of the museums, like the National Museum of Korea, have digitized their exhibits by taking a photograph of each item on display, and linked that with information about the item.  It is a little more cumbersome to navigate these websites and exhibits, and you don’t get the illusion of being there, but you can still learn a lot.


The MCN list of museums with virtual content is heavy on US museums, but as you can see above, international “travel” is also possible.  But, for now, the rain has stopped and I’m going to explore my own backyard.


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