By Scott Baughman

The pandemic that is COVID-19 will certainly be remembered as a strange epoch in human history where people were forced to stay home and not always happy about it. It shares this basic premise with several other times in moments in our collective past where quarantines and face-masks were the order of the day (despite some complaints by various quarters about such restrictions being unnecessary or unwieldy) but there’s one MAJOR thing that sets us apart from eras such as the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 – you guessed it, The Internet!

No, this column isn’t going to be about spreading information (or misinformation) about the plague via the World Wide Web. Instead, I’m going to keep things positive in my focus like I always do. This installment of Technically Speaking is going to embrace our summer issue theme of “Getting Out There” but in our own way – virtually!

I know how it is. You’re eager to go out and about doing things during the summer and the weather is just beautiful. But maybe your area just hasn’t quite loosened up on the quarantine restrictions (like many parts of North Carolina) or you’re in a high risk category for contracting and suffering complications from the disease. Or maybe you’re just not comfortable mingling with the crowds yet. Don’t worry, you can STILL get out there with these great virtual tours! 

Did you know that many National Parks, museums and art installations have put up virtual tours of their attractions online during the COVID-19 crisis? Yep, and here in no particular order is a list of the most popular or remarkable virtual tours available out there on the Internet.

  • The Albertina – Located in Vienna, Austria the Albertina opened in 1805 and showcases modern art and historically significant prints. The print room alone has over 65,000 drawings and 1 million old master prints. The marquee works include Study for the Last Supper by Da Vinci and The Water Lily Pond by Monet. You can view the collections online via Google Arts and Culture, just search Albertina museum online.
  • Art Institute of Chicago – The Windy City’s art museum opened in 1879 and is one of the oldest operating museums in the USA. About 1.5 million people visit annually but now you can take a virtual tour right from your own couch where you can view major pieces like American Gothic, A Sunday on La Grand Jatte and – one of my personal favorite paintings ever – Nighthawks, which shows famous American Icons gathered at a no-name diner seemingly for all eternity. The museum’s website also offers projects to get creative at home, resources for teachers and JourneyMaker – a digital tool that lets you create personalized tours of the museum. Head over to artic.edu for the virtual tour. Sadly, Chicago style deep dish pizza not included.
  • The Broad, L.A. – For a much more contemporary installation that offers a virtual tour we turn to The Broad – an art museum named for philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The building opened about five years ago in 2015 and has almost 2,000 pieces of contemporary art featuring work by recent luminaries in the field like Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. The Broad has put together a series of YouTube videos to five you a first-hand look at the incredible Infinity Mirror room by Yayoi Kusama. 
  • The Galleria dell’Accademia – This small-scale museum began in 1784 in Italy and while it isn’t anywhere near as large as some of the other installations on this list, the building is still the second-most visited museum in all of Italy because it has what could be considered the most famous sculpture in history on display – Michelangelo’s David! You can get a video-guided tour of the museum, including David, via YouTube.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe Museum – Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this museum is focused on the artistic career of Georgia O’Keeffe, a prolific painter and sculptor considered one of the modern American Masters of art. The museum started out in 1997 with about 140 of her paintings but now includes over 1,200 objects ranging from architectural form paintings, to watercolors to pastels and sculptures but also including O’Keeffe’s iconic large-format flower, skull and landscape paintings. The museum website offers creative activities, stories and education about the artist’s life and has six virtual exhibits via Google Arts and Culture.
  • Hermitage Museum – The second-largest art museum in the world is this Russian museum located in St. Petersburg which opened in 1764. The Hermitage has over 60,000 pieces of artwork on display including works like The Peacock Clock by James Cox, Madonna Litta by Da Vinci and paintings by Rembrandt. The online tour is also one of the largest on this list allowing you to virtually walk through all six buildings in the main complex, treasure gallery and an additional nine exhibition projects.
  • Musee du Louvre – If you’re going to take only ONE virtual tour on this list, make it this one. The Louvre – opened in 1793 in Paris, France – is easily the most recognizable art museum in the world and it is also the largest measuring in at 782,910 square feet and hosting more than 9 million visitors in 2019. There are seven virtual galleries available from the world’s most famous museum including Egyptian Antiquities, The Advent of the Artist featuring works from Delacroix, Rembrandt and Tintoretto and even Remains of the Louvre’s Moat which harkens back to the museum’s beginnings as a real French castle. Oh yeah, and you can also check out the Mona Lisa, the world’s most famous painting. For a virtual tour, hit up the museum’s website at www.louvre.fr. 

So while the pandemic may have your travel options limited, at least you can still remain cultured. Until next time…download complete!