Online Art Museum Tours: The Best of Clickable Culture

 “Installation” by UGallery artist Michael Wedge
 “Installation” by UGallery artist Michael Wedge
 “Installation” by UGallery artist Michael Wedge

We stopped by the National Gallery of Art in DC this morning to check out the work of some master painters. An hour or so later, we globe trotted over for a quick stop at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, followed by a very enjoyable visit to the Guggenheim (the one in Spain, that is), and wrapped up our morning at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

I know what you're thinking. How is such a thing logistically possible?

Unless you have one of those magical spaceships like the one that transports the characters on the Disney show Little Einsteins to art and history hotspots worldwide in a matter of minutes, it isn't possible. The good news is that your physical presence is no longer required in order to enjoy great cultural venues from throughout the world.

Fortunately for us all, the places we visited on our internet tours and thousands of other world-renowned museums and cultural institutions have expanded their online offerings so that more and more people can experience their grandeur. Prompted in part by the recent pandemic, there is a newfound recognition by these institutions that the world is a better place when people have greater access and exposure to arts and culture. A collaboration with Google has allowed art enthusiasts, history buffs, and curious researchers to easily experience the thousands of arts and culture venues that have opened their virtual doors to the internet masses.

The benefits are many, including but not limited to:

  1. No lines: You can start your tour instantly and save time without waiting in long queue
  2. You can't get lost: Virtual museums provide easy navigation with user-friendly interfaces and maps
  3. It's free of charge: You don't have to spend money on gas, plane tickets, or the cost of admission

    With all these phenomenal resources available at your fingertips, how does the curious pseudo-space and time traveler know where to begin? Funny you should ask. As part of our foray into the incredible wealth of online resources relating to art, we're sharing a few tips.

     

     

    Whether you're a fan of architecture, modern and contemporary art, or a natural history museum buff, there is something for everyone utilizing these digital tools. While you could spend endless hours searching the net for the thousands of museums and cultural institutions that offer interactive engagement, the good news is that you don't have to, thanks to a simple online application we discovered. The Google Arts and Culture platform consolidates most all of these extraordinary opportunities into one easy-to-use dashboard. It's like your own personal ticket to culture.

    Perhaps "passport" is a better word, given the unique ability afforded by Google Arts and Culture to facilitate a globe-trot from country to country to view the finest museums and galleries each location has to offer. You can view art collections, be a student of art education, peruse online exhibits, and take virtual tours, just to name a few. 

    Here’s a snapshot of our recent internet adventures:

     

    • A Lesson in Genre Painting at the National Gallery of Art

    We started our day at the National Gallery of Art, physically located in Washington DC but just a couple of mouse clicks away on the desktop. We explored the "stories" function offered as part of the Getty’s virtual experiences, plunging into the topic of "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting."

    Stories are somewhat lower tech as compared to the Google street view style tours we participated in later in the morning, however, they are a user-friendly way to learn more about a specific subject. The Vermeer compilation, for example, takes a deep dive into the works of Vermeer and his fellow genre painters whose works were an elegant portrayal of people and scenes associated with the Dutch Golden Age. Stories feature relevant visuals, informative content, and fascinating facts as a snapshot of artists, genres, mediums, movements, and a never-ending list of additional categories.

     

    • A Virtual Walk Around the J. Paul Getty Museum“Musical Group on a Balcony” by Gerrit van Honthorst

    After the National Gallery, we popped over to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Thanks to virtual tours, the opportunities to explore museums on the arts and culture app are simply phenomenal. We started our online tour of the Getty utilizing the "pocket gallery" feature of the app and it's as close as you can get to being there without actually being there. As you move from room to room you can view each artwork as though you are standing in front of it. We particularly enjoyed Room 2 which features works that are a reflection of the Baroque style born of the Renaissance. 

    To use the "Pocket Gallery," feature, you'll need to download the app on your phone through either the apple or google play store. The experience is accessed by going to the camera function within the phone app. This gives you some additional options that aren't available on the webpage version and the added bonus of fun elements such as an “art selfie” feature which allows you to see which subjects from famous paintings you most resemble.

     

    • A Virtual Tour of the Guggenheim Museum in BilbaoImage of the Guggenheim Bilbao from Pixabay

    Virtual tours are easy utilizing the Google Arts and Culture platform on our desktop, so we decided to check out the Guggenheim Museum's fascinating art displays and exhibits. After pulling up the main page, the Google dashboard gives you a variety of options, for which we went directly to the "Museum Explorer" icon and headed for the Guggenheim using the search by alpha feature.

    Navigating the options on our desktop, we noted that the Guggenheim can be explored from three different vantage points, or “views” as the site calls them. These included an interior perspective as well as two different angles from the roof, thanks to the virtual tour functionality. While not all museums offer this feature, the option is indicated by an icon which is a small orange figure of a person encircled in white, that allows you to view the exhibits by room, with a variety of clickable links delineated as a gallery at the bottom of each page. Click on each individual gallery to explore them in greater detail.

     

    • Accessing the Entire Van Gogh MuseumPortrait of Vang Gogh

    We couldn't pass up the opportunity to access the entire museum thanks to the virtual museum tours available on the Google website and app. The Museum which is physically located in Amsterdam draws big crowds, both in "real life" and virtually, as fans of Vincent Van Gogh clamor to witness the collection of over 200 paintings by the famous painter as well as hundreds of drawings and personal letters in the collection.

    Other Online Art Resources

    While not all popular art museums have chosen to be part of the Google Arts and Culture collection, that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have online exhibits and tours. If you don't find what you are looking for on the Google arts dashboard, seek out the museums directly to determine what they offer in a virtual format.

    Shop Art Online

    Lastly, it goes without saying that we also highly recommend online art shopping opportunities. You can peruse the UGallery selection of original art anytime on our website which is updated weekly with new works by talented artists.