Part of a metal sculpture titled Tightroping by sculptor David Brown is seen at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Picture: AP Photo/Denis Farrell
Part of a metal sculpture titled Tightroping by sculptor David Brown is seen at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Picture: AP Photo/Denis Farrell

Take a virtual museum tour

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Apr 25, 2021

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There’s something beautifully poetic about wandering through a museum. Housing ancient artefacts, artwork from all regions of the world and technology and natural science that have revolutionised the way we understand the world around us. Museums offer us a glimpse into the past through thoughtfully curated exhibits.

From the vast collection of Egyptian antiques, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures at the Louvre in Paris to the 2 000-piece collection of contemporary art at The Broad in Los Angeles, people travel from far and wide to immerse themselves in the enriching experiences that museums have to offer.

But, like many other industries, once the pandemic hit, such leisurely forms of travel were deemed unnecessary and were even banned in certain countries while undergoing months of strict lockdown regulations.

Although the outside world has gradually begun opening up again, and life has started assuming some form of normalcy, most people are still reluctant to venture out into public places, let alone set foot on an aeroplane.

Fortunately, museums from all across the globe are opening their doors to visitors from the comfort of their homes so they can escape virtually into a different world, exploring every nook and cranny of their hallowed halls.

Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

Visit: https://collections.louvre.fr/en/page/apropos

At the end of March, the Louvre put online its entire collection of art online for all to see. Jean-Luc Martinez, the president and director of the French museum, said: "Today, the Louvre is dusting off its treasures, even the least-known.” Adding that: "For the first time, anyone can access the entire collection of works from a computer or smartphone for free, whether they are on display in the museum, on loan, even long-term, or in storage."

From Liberty Leading the People, painted by Eugène Delacroix, commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, to The Mona Lisa, undoubtedly one of the most famous portraits by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, you can delve into their 480 000 works of art that are part of the national collections and registered in the inventories of the museum’s eight curatorial departments. Their website states that The Louvre’s collections site offers several research tools, including full-text search engine, advanced search form, features that filter search results according to date of creation, an interactive map to find works on display in the museum, and so much more.

The Broad, Los Angeles, California

Visit: www.thebroad.org/fromhome

Housing a collection of contemporary art from the 1950s to the present, The Broad is committed to inspiring and fostering an appreciation of contemporary art by drawing in the public. One of their initiatives is a digital scheme called #TheBroadFromHome which aims to inspire people through music, poetry, performance, workshops and conversations centered on the Broad collection. Home to 2 000 works by more than 200 artists, it is one of the world’s leading collections of postwar and contemporary art. Their expansive collection features in-depth holdings of influential contemporary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Jasper Johns and Jeff Koons. Whether you’re an art fundi, a parent looking to expose their child to arts and culture, or are looking to learn something new, they have a variety of tours and classes virtually on offer. From guided drawing classes to art chats with curators, there’s something there for everyone.

Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Visit: artsandculture.google.com/partner/johannesburg-art-gallery

Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), in the centre of Joubert Park in the heart of the business district, is the largest gallery on the continent of Africa, with an impressively vast collection of over 9 000 pieces displayed in 15 exhibition halls and sculpture gardens. The exhibitions range from artefacts, sculptures and drawings to paintings, prints and lacework. It also has artwork from a range of regions and eras, including 17th-century Dutch paintings, 18- and 19th-century British and European work, as well as 19th-century and contemporary South African art. Through the help of Google Arts & Culture, an online platform of digital content of artworks and cultural artifacts from organisations throughout the world, JAG is able to share their exhibitions with the online community. Watercolour, sculpture, drawing and many other themes can be accessed via their portal.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres, Spain

Visit: www.salvador-dali.org/en/museums/dali-theatre-museum-in-figueres/visita-virtual/

Considered to be the last great work of Salvador Dalí, this museum is dedicated to the artist in his home town of Figueres, in Catalonia, Spain. The artist himself is buried in the crypt below the stage of his museum, where everything inside was conceived and designed by Dalí to offer visitors the experience of being pulled inside his unique and captivating world. The virtual tour available on their website is so realistic, it feels as though you are stepping inside; objects become larger as you move closer and expand to reveal various artworks and rooms, as you click to explore your way through the maze of famous artworks. Pop-up blurbs offer those on the tour snippets of information that explain his technique – from basics like oil painting to more bizarre methods like throwing live octopuses dipped in ink onto a sheet of paper.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Visit: artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-metropolitan-museum-of-art

The permanent collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art contains over 2 million works making it the largest museum in the US, attracting 6 million visitors each year with its representation of more than 5 000 years of art from across the globe. From mankind's first cities of the ancient world to contemporary pieces made in the present day, you can now explore this New York landmark in ways you never have before. Whether your interests lie in the art of Native America, Japanese woodcuts, or you’d simply like to experience an in depth “Timeline of Art History”, one of their many virtual tours on offer is sure to pique your interest and awaken your intellectual and creative mind.

National Museum of China, Beijing

Visit: en.chnmuseum.cn/exhibition/#rep_exhibitions

National Museum of China, Beijing, China

The National Museum of China is on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The museum was established in 2003 and covers Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history), with their permanent collection of over 1 million artefacts, including many precious and rare items exclusive to their museum. Simply click on one of their many virtual tours to embark on an adventure offering 360-degree views of the museum and fascinating pieces with a wealth of interesting information to guide you on your way.

Iziko Museums of South Africa, Various Locations, Cape Town

Visit: www.iziko.org.za/virtual-exhibitions

One of the premier cultural institutions in the country is Iziko Museums of South Africa, which operates 11 national museums in Cape Town. From your couch, classroom or even the comfort of your bed, you can virtually visit a range of their exhibitions that are rich in local history and have panoramic views for a unique and immersive experience. On offer are: “TheTata Madiba Virtual Exhibition”, “Our World, Our Heritage”, “Boonstra Diarama”, ‘“William Fehr Collection” and “Looking A Head: Revisiting the Lydenburg Heads”.

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