The world is pretty much on lockdown given coronavirus, but there’s one advantage we have compared to pandemics of the past: The internet, which offers plenty of distractions while sheltering in place. And while you could spend a lot of that time streaming or navigating social media, you might want to consider using the opportunity to up your cultural game—by virtually touring a museum.
A lot of major museums offer options for seeing works in their collection online, especially in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, which provides one stop access to the world's greatest masterpieces. Additionally, some museums have their own portals offering digital admission to the treasures therein—all for free. To see what we mean, check out recommendations for the best online museum experiences in the United States.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Covering 5,000 years of art history, The Met has 200,770 objects online. Their offerings on Google include experiences like "A New Look At Vermeer." The Met's home site offers features on current shows, like their major retrospective of the German painter Gerhard Richter and street view tours of key attractions like The Temple Of Dendur.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City
Grouped into categories such as contemporary art, Modern Art and Cubism, the 129 artworks from MoMA’s collection featured on Google include some of its most famous holdings—Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night, Paul Cézanne's Still Life with Apples, Henri Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy—complete with a street view button below each image that allows a 360 degree view of the location for each work. MoMA's home site offers installation photos of current exhibits plus its online cache of 84,000 works searchable by artist, title and year.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City
The Gugg is justly famous for its Frank Lloyd Wright designed building and interior rotunda. So it's no surprise that their partnership with Google is focused on a street view tour that takes you down the ramps passing artworks as you go. It also lets you enter the Tannhauser Collection, containing the museum's most significant offerings of Impressionism and Early Modern Art. The Guggenheim's home site also has a database for all of the objects in its collection.
Art Institute Of Chicago
You can look through 572 artworks on the Institute's virtual tour, which includes Edward Hopper's noir-ish ode to urban alienation, Nighthawks. If you're looking for something more upbeat, there's also Georges Seurat's Post-Impressionist masterpiece, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. These and other highlights of the collection are also accessible through street view.
The National Gallery Of Art, Washington D.C.
The National Gallery has 42,462 items on its Google site that you can browse directly or check out under headings such as Renaissance, Engravings, etc. Want more? The home site includes all of its copious holdings, along with slideshows of current exhibitions like "Degas at the Opera."
J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The Getty's collection spans art history from Classical Antiquity to today, much of which is found within the 15,709 items posted on Google, along with a street view journey through its main galleries. Also, if you want to keep up with the Getty's current exhibitions, the home site has slideshows of select works from each exhibit.
LACMA|Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Presumably, news of the coronavirus will cool the controversy over LACMA's plans to demolish its iconic mid-century main building for a new edifice that is actually smaller in total square footage. But you won't find your viewing space limited once you engage with LACMA's Google page. A total of 19,824 objects on are view, mostly categorized by country of origin. The site also currently hosts an online survey of the men’s fashion through history.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Boston MFA has 534 artworks on Google, organized by medium and stylistic periods. Also included are online exhibits on themes ranging from African-American art to fashion photography. There’s also a street-view feature, which takes you through the museum, starting with a climb up its grand staircase.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's offerings—82 in all—include some of the world's finest example of artworks from the Renaissance to Impressionism. You can also experience the museum's fabulous courtyard via street view.
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami
Located on the campus of Florida International University, The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum is one of South Florida’s key cultural institutions. Its online selection features objects from Africa, Meso-American Peru and Japan, with the latter including a fascinating series of late-19th-century color woodblock prints featuring battle scenes from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894.
The Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, FL
This monographic museum dedicated to master Surrealist and showman Salvador Dalí, offers a virtual tour of the entire premises inside and out with zoomable, 360-degree images of the gallery and the building, which is as idiosyncratic as the artist whose name is on it.
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.
Take a online spin around the Hirshhorn's central courtyard and sculpture garden, where you'll works by Rodin, Matisse and Max Ernst among others.
Now check out more virtual tours of museums around the world.