Museums and galleries are magical places that can transport you to unknown worlds. From reconstructed dinosaur skeletons to Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, there is an exhibit out there to spark everyone’s interest.
Walking through a museum can be a daunting task. There are hordes of tourists, strict rules of conduct, and a maze of halls that take you way past your daily goal of 10,000 steps. Virtual tours eliminate all that; and they allow you to sit back, relax with a drink of your choice, and even zoom into the exact details of artworks without a guard telling you to step back.
The Smithsonian: The National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., USA
The Smithsonian Museum is world-renowned and on many people’s bucket lists. The museum’s mission is to promote understanding of the natural world and our place in it. The museum stewards a collection of 145 million specimens and artifacts. Most of the Smithsonian’s exhibits are free to the public, and their virtual tours are incredibly impressive.
One of their most exciting exhibits is a 31,000-square-foot fossil hall that shows how the Earth’s distant past is connected to the present. There are over 700 specimens including a tyrannosaurus rex, a woolly mammoth, and even some early insects.
Their virtual tours are extremely well done and take you through the space with a 360° view. You can obviously see the current exhibits, but their past ones are also available online. In a way, you can see and learn more online than you could if you visited in person. This speaks volumes to the Smithsonian’s goal of educating the public.
The Vatican Museums in the Vatican City, Italy
The Vatican Museums have some of the most famous works of art in the world. From personal experience, I can tell you that the lines to get into the museum are intense and grueling. But once you are inside, everything negative is forgotten. Until you reach the climax of your tour, the Sistine Chapel, and you discover that you can’t even take a photo. It is also very crowded and noisy, so the virtual tour is, in many ways, a more enjoyable experience.
The completely free virtual tours of the Vatican Museums offer beautiful 360° views of seven rooms. These include Raphael’s Rooms, the New Wing, Room of Chiaroscuri and more. You can move around using the arrows to see every corner and detail easily. All rooms are photographed completely empty, and the colors are vibrant.
Whether or not you have seen the real thing, I highly recommend that you check out the Sistine Chapel. The virtual tour allows visitors to “stand” right under Michelangelo’s depiction of God and Adam. It allows you to zoom in and explore without craning your neck. It truly is an amazing experience that will stay with you forever.
NASA’s Research Centers
Most children dream of being astronauts at some point while growing up. Others never stop dreaming and grow up to be Neil Armstrong, Yuri Gagarin, or Mae C. Jemison. NASA’s research centers draw visitors from all over the world. Space Center Houston has an amazing new app that offers 400 things to see and do for free. This includes augmented reality experiences and 360° tours.
Langley Research Center in Virginia, USA
The Langley Research Center was established in 1917 and is the oldest of NASA’s field centers, directly bordering Langley Air Force Base. To explore their tours, you can click on points of interest on a map that takes you to an immersive video. These videos are narrated and take the listener through the center while giving an overview of each area.
Glenn Research Center in Ohio, USA
The Glenn Research Center was established in 1942, and their primary mission is to develop science and technology for use in aeronautics and space. Their Zero Gravity Research Facility is a vertical vacuum chamber used for experiments. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985! They offer 360° tours of 10 different areas that are all fascinating to explore.
The Louvre in Paris, France
The Louvre was established in 1793 and is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. In 2018 the Louvre received 10.2 million visitors! Today, even more people can visit the museum without leaving their homes. There are currently four virtual tours available on their online tours page: The Advent of the Artist, Remains of the Louvre’s Moat, Galerie d’Apollon and my personal favorite Egyptian Antiquities.
Egyptian Antiquities features collections from the Pharaonic period. Here you can navigate through panoramic views of the museum and click on artifacts to learn more about them. This interactive experience takes you up and down stairs and through several galleries where you can view detailed images of major exhibits.
Google Arts & Culture
Google Arts & Culture is an online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks housed in the initiative’s partner museums. You can use it to see pieces from MoMA, the MET, the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum and many more. It also offers unique experiences such as virtual walks on famous Parisian rooftops, exploring Anne Frank’s hiding spot and hanging out on the International Space Station. You could spend days exploring the platform and still only scratch the surface of what they have to offer.
The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, Mexico via Google Arts & Culture
A particularly interesting gallery is from the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House, which was Frida Kahlo’s private universe. Although it is not so private anymore since anyone can visit virtually thanks to Google. Here you can see 68 items of Frida Kahlo’s artwork. The different categories are cubism, self-portraits, oil paintings, photographs, paper, and Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who is known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico.
StarTalk: Bringing Science to Life with Ben Stiller
StarTalk is an intriguing, free podcast that bridges the intersection between science, pop culture and comedy with clarity, humor, and passion. It’s hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator.
Bringing Science to Life with Ben Stiller is a fun episode in which Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews Ben Stiller, the star of Night at the Museum. This popular movie kindled an interest in science in many people by bringing them to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where Dr. Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium.
Photos: Shutterstock / edit: Martina Advaney