Virtual Travel: Cultural Institutions

Feeling drained of the arts in your life? Craving for more history and culture? Are you in dire need to travel but are currently unable to leave? Or perhaps the weather is too miserable outside to leave home.

Try (free) virtual museum visits!

Last autumn, I visited the Google Art Project website and was surprised to find so many cultural institutions from around the world available for Google street/museum view. I’m certain there will be more added to the list as time goes by.

These cultural institutions include but are not limited to:

  • art galleries
  • palaces* (see list below)
  • opera houses
  • museums of fashion, history, music, war, etc.

I had originally thought that the website only contained photos of paintings and sculptures but I discovered that some museums have the ‘Little Yellow Man’ (does he have a name?) at the top right corner to indicate that we can take virtual tours inside the museums or institutions. All you have to do is to click on Collections in the top menu bar to see a list of cultural institutions. From the Collections page, you’ll see a tab at the top left corner called ‘Museum view only’ with the Little Yellow Man. Clicking on the tab shows you an alphabetical list of cultural institutions available for virtual viewing. Once you select an institution, you’ll be taken to the institution’s home page, where you’ll find the virtual visit box first, followed by a slider of paintings and photographs of decorative objects. Clicking on the museum/street view will take viewers on a virtual tour of the available floors (drop-down menu at the top left corner) and rooms or halls (in light grey). Note that although different floors are available, not all rooms or halls are available for viewing. (I assume some of these may be the WCs, offices, or storage rooms.) Want to know where specific decorative objects or paintings can be found in the museum? Click on a photo from the bottom gallery slider and you’ll be taken to the room where the item is located. The main downside is having to manually type in the Google Art Project web in every tab if you enjoy having multiple tabs opened in one browser as right-clicking is disabled.

The website’s bottom menu allows viewers to share cultural institutions and/or works of art through social media, compare works of art (even from different institutions), and to save these works in one’s own virtual Google gallery.

While virtual tours may leave you temporarily satisfied, I find that it only leaves us craving for more. Nothing, after all, beats visiting an institution and seeing works of fine and decorative art in person. The admission fee and the throng of crowds may be deterrents but are often worth it. What virtual tours can do, however, is prepare us for future travels. Taking a tour of the Opéra national de Paris (click on link for virtual tour), also known as the Palais Garnier, for instance, might help with selecting seats for an opera or ballet. Or perhaps show us which floors or rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to visit if we have limited time. It also allows us to take a trip down memory lane in case we’ve forgotten what we’ve seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. 🙂

So off you go now. Have a lovely weekend!

Schönbrunn 2009

One of the many palaces* you can visit virtually: Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria (Own photo)


*List of Royal Palaces on Google Art Project

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