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Museums Offer Virtual Tours
Ruthie Spencer ’22 Staff Writer
May 11, 2020

In this time of uncertainty, the artistic community has been relying on virtual tours to help showcase and preserve their artwork. But there have been both positive and negative responses to this idea. 

According to Studio Art Teacher Mercedes Taylor, “Nothing can compare to the experience of going to a museum.” Ms. Taylor added, “I am grateful that museums have been finding different ways of reaching out to audiences.” 

Some ways in which museums have approached virtual visitations include the following: 

National Geographic: Recently released exhibit “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall” is the first virtual tour from National Geographic. This tour includes walking videos to show the full exhibit in completion. To supplement the virtual component of the Jane Goodall exhibit, National Geographic is also releasing a documentary about Jane Goodall to help the public stay informed and interested in the museum’s work. The description of this exhibit is on the National Geographic website, and it is clear that National Geographic’s goal is to continue to stay virtually “open.”

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has put together a virtual museum including current and past exhibits. Some of their tours include a walk around its building and allow you to find different exhibits without ever leaving your couch. Different from National Geographic, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s virtual tour is much more self-guided but also provides narrated tours. Some of these self-guided tours include the Smithsonian Castle and Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. Exploring the website is a lot of fun!

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam: One bonus about virtual tours is that you don’t have to live near the museum to tour it. Deerfield is far away from Amsterdam, but this museum is offering linked sections to each exhibit. From portraying images of Van Gogh’s letters to giving viewers images and descriptions of Van Gogh’s “highlights,” this museum has given viewers a wide array of works from Van Gogh’s collection to explore. It has also enabled fans to search and find any of his works that they wish to see. While still staying at home, you are able to explore some of the world’s most magnificent art.

Virtual museums are a new and different way to engage in the arts. You don’t have to wait in lines outside, there aren’t crowds around each exhibit, and as Mrs. Taylor said, “the resources that museum websites offer are amazing and can be valuable when planning a class.” 

However, there are some clear downsides to not being able to visit these museums. Being immersed in the culture of not only the museum but also the city around them is an incredible experience in itself. Not being able to plan a trip or visit the sights of each city definitely creates a lost adventure. What the virtual museums can’t do is create a sense of awe in seeing, for example, the Mona Lisa, in person. But, virtual museums provide a way to thoroughly explore artworks that are less known. Rather than needing a plan, the virtual world lets you explore on your own time, maybe take a break, before returning and looking at another exhibit. Although we are not altogether in person to feel the magic of these artistic achievements, virtual museums are very much worth visiting.