Museums Week: The Best Virtual Tours and Online Experiences

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This week marks Museums Week, which would usually see celebrations taking place in all kinds of weird and wonderful institutions across the world. The festival is now taking place entirely on social media instead – with seven different themes and hashtags for each day. 

While looking at a painting or an artefact on a screen is never going to be quite the same as standing in front of a piece that moves you, it’s possible to enter and look around some of the world’s most famous galleries and museums from the comfort of your own home. You can take a look around The Louvre without having to dodge the crowds, and zoom in on details in the Sistine Chapel that you probably wouldn’t even notice in real life. Here, we’ve picked out some of the most immersive and unusual museums you can visit in just a click. 

Natural History Museum, London


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The Natural History Museum is one of our capital’s most recognisable buildings, particularly the grand yet warm terracotta Hintze Hall. And who better to introduce us to its fascinating meteorites, skeletons and mammals than national treasure David Attenborough? 

The NHM offers access to its Data Portal, where you can browse and research 4.5 million of the museum’s specimens – from butterflies to beetles – plus, you can admire illustrations, diagrams and manuscripts in its online archive.  On Tuesdays and Fridays, the Nature Live Online team also hosts live talks about all sorts of subjects, during which you can ask the scientists questions. You can also watch previous presentations, too. 

Guggenheim, New York


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The Guggenheim Museum in New York is as much an objet d’art in its own right, as the non-objective pieces within it. The UNESCO World Heritage site was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is a striking inverted ziggurat shape, which both stands out next to the uniform blocks of the city, and complements the excitement and diversity that New York is known for. 

Its online portal is called Guggenheim at Large and here you can find a link to a virtual tour via Google Arts and CultureFor a small fee, you can take a live Zoom tour with museum educators, during which various themes are discussed and explored, and families can get involved with ‘Sketch with Jeff’ sessions – hosted by the museum’s teaching artist. 

If you hop over to the Guggenheim Bilbao, you can find out all the behind the scenes secrets, like how they transport works or art or preserve those in storage. 

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


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The majestic Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is allowing its online visitors to view some of its most famous masterpieces in high definition, with a fact-filled commentary that will broaden your art history knowledge and impress your quarantine buddies. 

The most detailed picture ever captured of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (44,804,687,500 pixels to be exact) allows viewers to zoom in on individual brushstrokes and drops of paint. The image is part of Operation Night Watch, which is a restoration project carried out in a glass cube inside the museum so that visitors can spectate (when it is open to the public). The research will be able to find out which pigments the artist used all the way back in 1642! Operation Night Watch began in July 2019, and has only recently started once again (without visitors and with researchers abiding by social distancing rules) after a hiatus due to coronavirus.

Elsewhere in the virtual Rijksmuseum, you can discover how some of the mammoth paintings and sculptures are cleaned! And it’s not with a Henry Hoover…

Museum of Broken Relationships, Los Angeles & Zagreb

The Museum of Broken Relationships is one of the newest museums on this list, and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a collection of items that held a certain significance in a relationship that is now over. They are displayed alongside a snippet of writing from the anonymous donor. 

Just because we can’t get there in person, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a few of the oddities in the collection. From belly button lint to stilettos, some of the stories are heart-rending, others are humorous – and a fair few are both! 

“When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?”

The toaster of vindication, 2006 – 2010
Denver, Colorado

The Broad Museum, Los Angeles


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Naturally Los Angeles, home to celebrities and influencers, boasts one of the most Instagrammable museums of them all. The contemporary gallery (1950s onwards) has housed works by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol.

The Broad From Home digital museum allows users to connect with the gallery and its works in extraordinary ways. Infinite Drone combines one of the Broad’s most famous and photographed installations, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, with soundtracks by Los Angeles based musicians. Interplay: Poetry and Art sees poets write pieces about specific artworks, or connect previous writings to current exhibits.

Dali Theatre Museum, Spain


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Which artist would you most like to be stuck in quarantine with? We imagine Dali would make the drudgery of the everyday a whole lot more interesting. If you’d like to escape into the mind of the surrealist, then we recommend taking a virtual tour of the Dali Theatre Museum in Figueras, beneath which the artist is actually buried.

The building itself is crowned with giant eggs, and loaves of bread decorate the outer wall. Online, you’re actually able to access 360-degree views from inside some of the installations, such as Cadillac, and rooms are arranged so that when you stand back, it becomes a larger work of art. This particular tour will be a welcome relief from the sight of your own four walls, just don’t blame us if your dreams become even weirder…