Visiting museums during this pandemic is going to be a no-go, but you can still get much of the experience of some of our country’s greatest institutions in your own living room. As museums adapt to our current state of widespread isolation, they’re offering online programs and virtual tours that are second only to being there in person.
The National Museum of Natural History
If you ever wanted to see the bones of an American Alligator or an Indian Rhinoceros in terrifying detail, this is your chance. The Museum of Natural History’s virtual tour is top-notch and expansive. While making your way through the galleries containing the largest natural history collection in the world, you can focus in on select exhibits to view a giant crystal or a 10th-century Spanish lute as if you were leaning into them in person. If you have a 3D printer at home, you can even download and print models of mammoth or triceratops bones.
If you happen to have a virtual reality headset, you should go download the Dreams of Dalí interactive experience right now. The acclaimed exhibit takes viewers through a surreal world of sight and sound inspired by the Spanish artist. If you don’t have the headset, you can still get a taste of Dreams of Dalí with a 360-degree video. Otherwise, try this meditative guided doodling exercise to clear your mind and forget the weight of the world for a moment.
National Women’s History Museum
The National Women’s History Museum is uploading new stories and videos daily all month that celebrate women throughout history, and they encourage you to take a women’s history break each day while working from home to learn about important women. You can browse their extensive collection of stories and online exhibits or play Notable Women in History Solitaire.
During their closure, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is livestreaming daily from their vault of more than 250 rare and classic cars. If you sign up online, you can have the link emailed to you shortly before the broadcast starts, and a curator will take viewers inside and under the hood of their collection as well as answer questions. The Petersen is also offering programming for kids, like livestreamed storytimes and educational activities.
The National Gallery of Art
The NGA’s website has 53,000 images to download, and they recommend using them as backdrops for your Zoom meetings. The free D.C. museum also offers plenty of virtual programming for the whole family. You can find videos and activities that center around the gallery’s collection, and — for a less stringent learning experience — the NGAkids Art Zone app will keep them busy creating their own portraits and abstract masterpieces.
Museum of Flight
Seattle’s Museum of Flight may be sitting empty of guests right now, but virtually it’s open for business. On the website of the world’s biggest aviation museum, you can tour an Air Force One model or a NASA Space Shuttle Trainer, view a huge collection of digitized photos and documents, and listen to the Flight Deck podcast. The latest episode of the podcast features a Holocaust survivor giving a firsthand account of World War II.
Museum of American Revolution
From April 6-April 17, the Museum of the American Revolution is offering Virtual Spring Break, with daily crafts and coloring, live Q&As at noon on Wednesdays, and a colonial cooking demo every Thursday. You can also tour the museum virtually any time, scanning each room with clickable exhibits and information placards.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met will celebrate its 150th anniversary with closed doors, but the museum’s online offerings tell its storied history to everyone at home. You can see how art conservationists go about conserving a Michelangelo drawing or watch a documentary on the history of cats in art. #MetKids features an interactive time machine they can use to explore art from around in world throughout the ages.
International Spy Museum
Since opening in 2002, D.C.’s spy museum has become a popular attraction in the nation’s capital. Kids and adults alike love secret agent stuff, and you can still get your spy fix even after bingewatching The Americans. Tune into their podcast, Spycast, for interviews with authors and former agents for real stories about people incognito. Kids will like the SpyFromHome YouTube series, where they can learn to make DIY spy projects and costumes.
Featured image by James Di Loreto/Smithsonian
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