Take a Virtual Tour of the Most Popular U.S. Museums

April 6, 2020
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The “new normal” of staying home can quickly turn to boredom. At a certain point, you’ll be looking for something to break up the monotony of Netflix binges and endlessly scrolling through social media. Many museums have begun providing virtual tours and online offerings during this time, so you can still get a little culture and education while you’re sheltering at home. You don’t even have to leave the couch! Here are a few virtual museum tours that we recommend.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Courtesy of Pixabay

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York City is the largest art museum in the United States and the third most visited in the world. It is famous for hosting the annual Met Gala as well as for its extensive collection of art. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, including European, African, Asian, modern American, and ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian. The museum is also home to collections of costumes, musical instruments, and antique weaponry.

Much of what the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers can be accessed online. You can take a virtual tour from the comfort of your home with immersive 360° videos that allow you to explore some of the museum’s iconic spaces, like the Great Hall. You can view The Met Collection, which includes more than 470,000 objects, online; browse at your leisure or take advantage of the highlights chosen by museum curators. The museum also has audio guides, downloadable catalogs from past exhibitions, and educational programs.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (the Guggenheim), also located in New York City, is an art museum dedicated to Impressionist, post-Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art. The museum itself is also a work of art – a cylindrical building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright with an infamous spiral rotunda. The Guggenheim is home to about 8,000 permanent pieces from the late 19th century through modern day.

Over 1,700 of those works – by more than 625 artists – are featured in the Collection Online, a searchable database of the selected artworks. You can take a virtual tour of the Guggenheim Museum or learn more about the history of the building by listening to their audio guide. The Guggenheim also has an archive of video interviews with staff members, interviews with contemporary artists, and family-friendly online art classes. 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Courtesy of Pixabay
J. Paul Getty Museum
Courtesy of Pixabay

The J. Paul Getty Museum (the Getty) in Los Angeles is comprised of two separate campuses. The primary museum, the Getty Center, houses primarily European paintings, drawings, and sculptures, including works by Vincent Van Gogh and Michelangelo. The secondary museum, the Getty Villa, displays art from Ancient Greece and Rome.

The Getty has many exhibitions from the collection available to peruse online, including featured highlights. You can also explore the museum with a 360° virtual tour via Google Arts & Culture. The Getty produces two podcasts plus has audio tours with images from past exhibitions. They also have a virtual library, free databases, and educational videos.

The High Museum of Art (the High), located in Atlanta, is one of the leading museums in the southeastern United States. The High’s permanent collection includes more than 17,000 artworks across seven areas: African art, American art, decorative arts and design, European art, folk and self-taught art, modern and contemporary art, and photography. In particular, it has one of the most significant collections of photographs from the Civil Rights Movement.

Thousands of works in the High Museum of Art can be accessed in their online collection. Google Arts & Culture also has an online exhibit of the High’s Civil Rights Movement collection. The High also has lots of informative YouTube videos discussing specific works of art, plus interviews with artists. 

High Museum of Art
Courtesy of High Museum of Art Facebook Page
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Courtesy of Alejandro Barba on Unspash

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. is the most visited natural history museum in the world. It has the largest natural history collection in the world, with over 145 million plants, animals, fossils, rocks and minerals, and cultural artifacts. Notable exhibits include the Hope Diamond and Star of Asia sapphire, the last known carrier pigeon, giant squid, a t-rex, and mummies.

The museum has an immersive 360° virtual tour where you can “walk” throughout the entire museum and explore the exhibits. There are also 2.8 million artifacts and specimens from the National Museum of Natural History in the public domain, including thousands available to view in 3D. The museum also has many video series and interactive educational websites for additional learning.

Two of NASA’s prominent research centers are currently offering virtual tours. Langley Research Center, located in Virginia, is the oldest of NASA’s field centers. It focuses primarily on aeronautical research but has also tested space hardware at the facility. Glenn Research Center, located in Ohio, focuses on developing science and technology for use in aeronautics and space. It has the world’s largest space environment vacuum chamber and the largest microgravity facility in the world.

NASA offers 360° virtual tours of both research centers, including videos and up-close images of certain areas. You can also check out virtual tours of other attractions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. NASA also offers a few augmented reality apps for further exploration and education.

NASA Research Center
Courtesy of NASA Glenn Research Center Facebook Page

Virtual museum tours are a great way to keep yourself busy and entertained during this time spent at home. They allow you not only to virtually “travel” to the museum itself, but also to experience art and other interesting objects from all around the world (and even out-of-this-world). We hope they help you stave off boredom while also providing educational value!