“Stroll” and scroll through these museum exhibits, from a virtual ancient Egyptian exhibit to contemporary Korean art on display
Appeals to stay home and socially distance might have us cooped up indoors right now, but you can still travel the world for a dose of art and history appreciation, thanks to museums opening their doors virtually. Here are seven in our network that will give you some serious culture cred – all you need is a screen.
1. The Palace Museum, Beijing
Housed in the Chinese capital’s Forbidden City, the Palace Museum was the imperial home of the country’s last two great dynasties, the Ming and Qing, for nearly 500 years. Within its walls lie centuries of art, furniture, calligraphy, ceramics and architecture, which you can browse through the Palace Museum’s virtual tours. Click through “A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains”, an ode to landscape paintings in China over a thousand years, and use the helpful floorplans found on the top left corner of the screen to navigate your way through the extensive collection. The high-definition image quality of the online tour enables you to zoom into each plaque to read with ease. Then, enjoy a change of scenery by entering the gates of the Palace of Longevity and Health in “Shoukang Gong”. Take your time exploring the beautifully preserved spaces once occupied by members of the imperial family and their household.
2. British Museum, London
Find more than 40 online exhibits from the British Museum through Google Arts & Culture and enjoy detailed writeups accompanying each piece. Scroll through “Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs” to find religious artifacts harking back to Roman rule and the rise in Christianity in the land. And in “Poetry and Exile”, discover paintings by contemporary Middle Eastern artists that speak of the disillusion and resolution of having to leave the place they call home. The British Museum also offers an online database of four million objects in its collection, which you can browse under themes such as “Death and Memory”, or “Destiny, Love and Identity”.
3. Hong Kong Museum of History
Explore old and new exhibitions from the Hong Kong Museum of History that showcase everything from the exploration of Chinese trade and culture during the Han dynasty to the city’s postal history. In “The Rise of the Celestial Empire”, look out for a jade suit sewn with gold thread, a prestigious Han-dynasty burial item that spoke of the deceased wearer’s privilege, power and reputation. Even through a computer screen, the artifact’s intricacy is undeniable. And in “Gilded Glory: Chaozhou Woodcarving”, wood craftsmanship from the Chaoshan region during the Tang to Qing dynasties is given centre stage with this collection ranging from the practical to the extravagant: check out everyday tools such as confectionary boards as well as extravagantly designed gilt wooden sedan chairs meant for statues of revered deities.
4. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
Walk through this Seoul institution with the help of Google Arts & Culture, and find museum highlights such as contemporary artist Kim Doo-jin’s The Youth of Bacchus – a digital painting that calls back to the 1884 William-Adolphe Bouguereau masterpiece – as well as Ham Kyung-ah’s multimedia pieces that tackle the sensitive relationship between North and South Korea. Also among the online exhibits offered by the museum is a celebration of the late Korean modern artist Yoo Youngkuk’s oeuvre — scroll through his journey from developing artist to great abstractionist with paintings from the ‘30s to the ‘90s. A great advantage of this virtual showcase is the high-definition close-ups of each featured artwork. Brimming with textures and bold colour, Yoo’s paintings are given a different angle through a virtual lens.
5. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Hop onto the Ntaional Gallery of Victoria Channel and explore the first Australian exhibition of the works of Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo. “Collecting Comme”, captured online for all to view, celebrates the Japanese designer’s forty-year career as a pioneer in fashion and textiles with more than 65 outfits and 15 pieces by her equally well-known collaborators Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara. Also available is a video breakdown of how Kawakubo constructs some of her avant-garde pieces. You can find other online exhibitions such as “Marking Time”, an eye-opening showcase of the ancient practice of mark-making on trees, rocks and the human body throughout Indigenous Australian history. Also check out videos of artist interviews, artwork discussions and curator insights on the NGV Channel: we recommend the introspective on American pop artist Keith Haring and the impact his work has had on contemporary Indigenous Australian artists.
6. Bangkok National Museum
Once known as the Front Palace, this 19th-century viceroy residence was officially converted into a royal museum in 1887. After exploring the expansive grounds of the Bangkok National Museum, step into its various buildings, all via virtual tour; take a look inside the two-storey Issaret Rachanuson Residence that boasts Western-style room fittings, or wander through the opulent red-and-gold Phuttaisawan Royal Hall with floor-to-ceiling religious décor devoted to a golden Buddha Putthasihing statue. Virtual tours of national museums across the different regions of Thailand, such as Chiang Mai National Museum and Thalang National Museum in Phuket, can be found online too.
7. Malacañang Presidential Museum and Library, Manila
The Malacañang Presidential Museum and Library in Manila preserves and promotes the rich history and heritage of the Philippine presidency. The museum is the only part of Malacañang Palace (the official seat of political power in the Philippines) that’s typically open to the public, and it’s also open to anyone with an internet connection. The palace has teamed up with Google Arts & Culture to allow viewers to virtually walk through exhibitions such as “Relics of Power: Remembering Philippine Presidents”, which highlights the life and legacies of the country’s past and present leaders. “Stroll” through the museum’s displays featuring portraits, historic furniture and even presidential paraphernalia such as pamphlets and fans.