Museum visits are a staple in every arts and culture enthusiast's travel itinerary. But recently, more and more people are dedicating time out of their trip to visit museums and galleries making Art + Travel a popular 2020 travel trend. Why is that so?

For one, it promotes critical thinking. Spectators are brought into different worlds as they look at one art piece after another, expanding perspectives and deepening understanding of the world.

Secondly, it inspires. It stirs a drive for creating something yourself and sharing it with others. Thirdly, it encourages conversations. As people interpret the works they see, they're compelled to talk about it with others, turning the personal encounter into a collective experience.

With the health crisis today, however, this arts and culture hobby is being redefined. Virtual museums are the new talk of the town.

The New Normal in Museum Visits

As the coronavirus pandemic swept swiftly across the globe, travels have gone restricted, museums had to shut down operations, and you're stuck at home. While there's nothing you can do about flights and quarantine measures, the good news is you can still find inspiration while cooped up in your room all day long: virtual reality museums.

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Art galleries all over the world may have closed their doors physically. They have opened new windows of opportunity, introducing art to new audiences and, more importantly, allowing people to appreciate art right at their own homes. Virtual museum tours are a right way of relieving cabin fever, and keeping your mind off idleness, stimulating it for better thinking, even.

Below is a list of museums with virtual tours all over the globe, which you can visit online:

  1. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  2. British Museum, London
  3. Picasso Museum, Barcelona 
  4. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 
  5. Louvre Museum, Paris

Read more about the virtual tours these museums offer:

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

As the largest art museum in the United States, the Met has over two million masterpieces housed in 17 curatorial departments stretching across 2.2 million square feet. The institution introduced the Met 360° Project in 2016, way before the health crisis struck, but the project has recently regained traction since the outbreak.

Photo courtesy of Alex Simpson via Unsplash

The 360° Project is a series of videos showcasing a few of the museum's most famous sights and spaces. With the tour shot with spherical 360° technology, the clips can be adjusted in terms of orientation. You can point it up, down, and around to see the entire space, making it one of those highly innovative virtual museum tours.

What you should see:

  • The Temple of Dendur: an ancient Egyptian temple built by the Roman governor Petronius, commissioned by the emperor Augustus. In 1968, Egypt gave it as a gift to the United States, as a way of acknowledging the latter’s support for preserving monuments threatened by the Nile.

  • Cloisters: European medieval art, covering architecture and sculpture, reflecting Romanesque and Gothic periods. The design, layout, and atmosphere of the building are reminiscent of early monastic life. 

2. British Museum, London

Known as the first national public museum of the world, the British Museum features eight million works in its permanent collection. It covers many aspects of human life, from history to culture. Its digital offering is one of the virtual museums of art that offer various modes of exploring. They have galleries hosted on their official website, Google Street View, and Google Arts & Culture. 

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Lysandrou via Unsplash

What you should see: 

  • Egyptian Sculpture: a collection that includes iconic Egyptian antiquities, such as the Rosetta Stone and the sarcophagus of the last pharaoh, Nectanebo II. A huge granite image of King Ramesses II is stationed in this gallery.

  • Prints and Drawings. Selected pieces of Western graphic art varying in periods. Classics, such as Michelangelo's Epifania and Edgar Degas' Dancers Practising at the Barre, are here, as well as modern pieces, like Henry Moore's Reclining Figure and Red Rocks and Kara Walker's No World.

3. Picasso Museum, Barcelona

Housing over 4,000 works in the permanent collection, the institution gives a peek into the formative years and legacy of the revered Spanish artist. Similar to other virtual tour museums, you can take a stroll around through a video hosted on their official Youtube channel, compiled on their website. 

Photo courtesy of Almudena_Sanz_Tabernero via Pixabay

Since it’s just a type-and-play kind of set-up, your loved ones who are not so tech-savvy, like your older folks, will appreciate this. Encourage them to watch with you. You never know, they might just be the ones eager to go to Barcelona once the travel restrictions are lifted.

What you should see:

  • First Communion: Picasso’s first large-scale oil painting, which he created while attending La Llotja Fine Art School. This work was presented at the 3rd Exhibition of Fine Arts and Artístic Industries in Barcelona, gaining popularity among the press and the arts community.

  • Science and Charity: an oil painting Picasso made when he was only 15 years old. Largely influenced by social realism, the masterpiece portrays a doctor’s visit to the sick.

4. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Accommodating over a thousand works, from paintings to sketches to letters, this museum holds the biggest Van Gogh collection in the world. Through a series of videos, titled Van Gogh Museum 4K Tour, the institution gives art enthusiasts virtual field trips that are equally enriching experiences as the real one.

Aside from the visual tour, you can explore the museum online through different activities, such as creating a Van Gogh classroom with kids and learning together about the artist’s personal life.

Photo courtesy of Jean Carlo Emer via Unsplash

What you should see: 

  • The Potato Eaters: one of the famous works of the artist, illustrating the tough life of peasants, who toiled with bony hands for the meal on their table. Using earth colors, Van Gogh intentionally likened it to the hue of a "dusty, unpeeled" potato. 

  • The Bedroom: a painting of Van Gogh's bedroom in the Yellow House at Aries. Although the image seems to be bustling with energy, it symbolized rest and peace for the artist.

5. Louvre Museum, Paris

With eight curatorial departments, this museum holds 35,000 works, covering sculptures, paintings, and other artifacts. It’s famous for housing the revered Mona Lisa. The virtual museum tour is on the official website, organized according to different exhibitions. 

Offering a 360° view, the digital field trip takes you to the most important spaces in the Louvre. Outside the website, you can also take an online tour in YouVisit, which features different galleries and salons in the museum. 

Photo courtesy of Stacy Wyss via Unsplash

What you should see:

  • Advent of the Artist: a collection of the works of the masters of Renaissance, such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello. Signatures, self-portraits, and the lives of artists are featured in this exhibition. 

  • Napoleon’s Apartment: a room that shows extravagant, grandiose interiors, which is a hallmark of Second Empire decorative art. From the dining room to the ceiling of the grand salon to the displayed crowns of the monarchs, everything in this space is elegant.

Museums all over the world may have closed physically, but that doesn't mean the absence of thought-provoking, awe-inspiring experiences with humanity's masterpieces. Bring art, history, and culture to your home by going on a virtual museum tour. When this health crisis is over, give in to your creativity wanderlust and see works of art in the flesh.