Experiencing art and culture in the age of COVID-19 has been difficult but not impossible. As almost every facet of our lives copy-and-pasted itself onto the internet last year, museums and art galleries followed suit, creating interactive, comprehensive, virtual exhibits.
Today, there are thousands of museums and galleries that offer online tours from the comfort and safety of your own home. There’s no waiting in line, no cost to get in, and no dress code.
Wear your PJ’s while you peruse the Grand Palais. Eat some cheez-its and drink a glass of red wine as you explore the Vatican museum. Did we mention no masks are required? If this has to be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future, we’re not complaining.
We’ve gathered seven of the most fascinating and unique museums from around the world that can be toured virtually for free. Happy scrolling!
The Dalí Theatre-Museum
Known as the “world’s largest surrealist object,” the Dalí Theatre-Museum was inaugurated in 1974. It is considered the last great work of legendary surrealist icon, Salvador Dalí, who died 15 years after the museum opened.
When the mayor of Figueres asked Dalí to donate artwork to the city (which was also Dalí’s hometown), the artist countered by donating an entire museum. The museum stands where the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres stood before it was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Dalí transformed the ghostly ruins into an architectural phenomenon of fantastical imagery and color.
The Dalí Theatre-Museum offers a free virtual tour that allows you to see works spanning Dalí’s decades-long career, including paintings, sculptures, mechanical devices, and other fascinating curiosities.
The Réunion des musées nationaux—Grand Palais, or Rmn-GP for short, has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to offer over 30 online exhibits that highlight both the art inside the building and the museum itself.
You might recognize the Grand Palais by its jaw-dropping glass ceiling, the largest of its kind in Europe. The architectural wonder was first built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 and was dedicated “by the French Republic to the glory of French art.”
The museum normally attracts around 2.5 million visitors each year, but you can explore the nooks and crannies of this historic building in the heart of Paris from home.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, D.C., United States
Celebrate Black History Month by exploring the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The NMAAHC is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.
Since opening in September of 2016, the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and has approximately 100,000 national members.
Thanks to the Smithsonian’s Open Access Initiative, images of artwork, sculptures, and other objects from the NMAAHC collection are now available to view and download for free. From the Freedom Riders to the birth of jazz, the NMAAHC highlights the long-lasting, powerful legacy of African Americans over the last several centuries.
The British Museum
British Parliament created the world’s first free, national, public museum in 1753. The British Museum is now visited by more than six million local and international visitors each year and boasts a massive collection of at least eight million objects and artifacts.
Notable features of this 268-year-old museum include the Rosetta Stone, an Easter Island head, and an enormous collection of well-preserved mummies. To walk (or, in this case, scroll) from one wing to another is to literally travel clear across the globe.
Museum of Science
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
The Museum of Science was first founded in 1830 as the Boston Society of Natural History. It wasn’t until 1948 that the museum moved to its current home on the Charles River as the Boston Museum of Science (Boston was eventually dropped).
Currently closed due to COVID-19, the museum is exclusively offering MOS at Home, an online resource that includes daily live streams, webinars for all ages, and virtual exhibits—including a timely presentation on SARS-CoV-2, or the coronavirus.
Or, if you’re in the mood to not think about the coronavirus (we can’t blame you), try out the virtual Science Behind Pixar exhibit or take a peek at their live webcam footage of a hard-working leafcutter ant colony.
Tucked behind towering walls in the center of Rome, the State of Vatican City houses a staggering collection of art and ethno-anthropological artifacts gathered by Popes over hundreds and hundreds of years.
As you navigate the many rooms of the interconnected Vatican Museums, you’re met with pristine marble sculptures, incredible painted tapestries, and gold-gilded frescos spanning the entire length of sky-high ceilings. It’s impossible not to want to stand in one spot, head crooked back, jaw agape, taking all 360 degrees of it in.
And since standing anywhere with your mouth gaping open probably isn’t a great pandemic practice, the Vatican is offering virtual tours of some of their most stunning pieces, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, and the Profane (a.k.a. Pagan) Museum.
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art was founded in 1969. At the time, it was the only national art museum in South Korea. The museum has since become a significant Korean modern art institution and features 7,000 pieces over four distinct campuses.
Google Arts & Culture offers eight virtual exhibits that span over 100 years’ worth of notable artists, sculptors, and designers. MMCA also offers hundreds of online resources, including virtual exhibit tours, lectures, and artist performances.
Check out A Museum for All, a Museum for Dogs from MMCA’s Seoul “Museum in the City” campus and Reframing the Horizon of Crafts, presented by MMCA’s Gwacheon “Museum in Nature” branch (be sure to turn on closed captioning via the Youtube video player).