Museums worldwide react to COVID lockdown by offering virtual tours

Vatican Museums virtual tour Sistine Chapel

Museums worldwide react to COVID lockdown by offering virtual tours (and much more)

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown across the world has been that almost all cultural venues are closed. These include cinemas, music clubs, theaters, and, of course, museums.
The long-term consequences of such a global stop for people visiting museums and art galleries are still unknown; yet, it will certainly threaten their financial sustainability. Furthermore, it will possibly change how people visit museums for a long time, if not forever.
How the world’s leading museums are coping with the current emergency, which strategies are they developing for future scenarios, which of them have enabled alternative ways to experience their exhibitions and collections which don’t require the physical presence of visitors? Here we present a short survey of international museums that currently offer virtual visits and online interactive visiting experiences.

Cover image: the Sistine Chapel virtual visit on the Vatican Museums’ website.

Google Arts & Culture
The Arts & Culture initiative by Google currently offers virtual visits to about 500 museums throughout the world, including the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, the National Gallery and the British Museum in London, the Musée D’Orsay and the Palace of Versailles in Paris, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, to name a few.
With some exceptions, the Google Art Project’s visits have excellent image quality and detail, yet, do not provide much information about the artifacts on display. Another problem is that, due to the standardization of the cultural approach and technology used, the museums featured on Google Art Project look all very similar; and the experience is a bit like visiting a single virtual “super museum” rather than different venues each with its different, distinctive character.

Google Arts & Culture partners page

The page on the Google Arts & Culture website from which to access over 500 international museums.

Vatican Museums (Rome/Vatican City)
The fifth most visited museum in the world, home to celebrated masterpieces such as the Sistine Chapel; the Vatican Museums have a virtual tour page by which you can visit 7 different galleries. The virtual can also be visited in stereoscopic 3D mode if you have a proper headset; yet, the visit gives you very limited, if any, information on the artworks in the galleries.
The virtual visit of the Vatican Museums is available at:

Vatican Museums virtual tour page 2

The virtual tours page on the Vatican Museums’ website.

MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (New York City, United States)
Along with the Google Art Project virtual visit, MoMA has enabled virtual views of its special exhibitions, which consist mostly of videos, audio files, and pictures.

MoMA virtual visits page

MoMA’s approach to virtual tours is a bit different from that of other major museums; indeed, its website features a number of virtual visits to the museum’s special exhibitions which include mostly videos and special curatorial content.

The Louvre (Paris, France)
The Louvre museum offers free online virtual tours of 3 of its galleries, including the Egyptian Antiquities Gallery, and one of a special exhibition. To view the galleries’ virtual tours Adobe Flash is required, so check if your browser supports it.

Louvre Museum Paris virtual tours page 2

The virtual visit interface of the Lovre Museum in Paris.

Centre Pompidou (Paris, France)
Among the many contents available online, the website of the Centre Pompidou in Paris offers an interesting tour called “PompidouVip” (Very Important Pieces) that presents to the public the works of the most iconic artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Through this walk around the collections on floors 4 and 5 of the Museum, the Pompidou offers the public an immersive experience that presents the formal and aesthetic research at the basis of modern and contemporary art.


Centre Pompidou, the map of the tour

Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)
From ancient Chinese ceramics to Alexander McQueen evening dresses, the Victoria & Albert Museum offers an online journey through galleries of objects, clothes, accessories, books, manuscripts, furniture, jewelry, that range through 5000 years of human creativity.


Victoria & Albert Museum, the index page ‘From the Collection’

Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (Madrid, Spain)
The website of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum includes a large VR section featuring virtual tours of its permanent collection and special exhibitions, including past ones.

Thyssen Bornemisza Museum Madrid vistual visit page

The online virtual tour page of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum.

Overall, most museums’ virtual tours are visually interesting and better than nothing, for sure; nevertheless, there is much room for creating more interactive experiences as well as for providing the visitors with better information about the artifacts on display in virtual galleries.
We’ll keep on updating this page, adding new museums featuring online virtual visits. Stay tuned.

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Examples of digital communication technology in culture and education

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