Written by Vicky, staff member, Halifax Central Library
There are only two good things about quarantine: working together as a community to protect each other from illness, and wearing pajamas. All day. Literally all day every day. I'm in my pajamas right now. But having limits to going outside, even when you're incredibly comfortable, can be a bummer. You want to go to art galleries, to museums, to hop on a plane and tour historical landmarks. Though we're not quite ready for that, there are ways to explore the world from the comfort of your living room, while still wearing your pajamas!
1. The Sunroom, Halifax Central Library
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
If you're a regular visitor to Central Library, you have no doubt made your way to the Sun Room on the 5th floor. Through the generous support of Margot and Layne Spafford, this bright, welcoming space features works from local artists, and even when the Library is closed, we are proud to offer this virtual tour, opens a new window of the pieces currently on display. Body + Self is a collection by painter Alice MacLean, opens a new window, and is a series of self-reflective works, exploring emotion and uncertainty. Go on a journey with MacLean as she “provides a unified view of self-related processing relevant to emotional awareness.”
2. The Louvre
There's a majestic quality to the Louvre, like the museum itself is something out of legend. The idea that one place could contain so many masterworks and artifacts—offering both the expected and the unexpected—it is like a dragon sitting on a pile of gold playing the theremin, opens a new window.
Yet, there it stands, on the banks of the Seine, beautiful and filled with a hoard, rich in culture and history, and you can visit it online any time you like. The Louvre offers several online exhibits, but none are more supportive of my current analogy than Founding Myths: From Hercules to Darth Vader., opens a new window This incredible tour features sculptors, painters, filmmakers, musicians and many more, showing how our own myths and legends have been brought to life in unique ways.
3. National Museum – New Delhi
Janpath, New Delhi
Visit here, opens a new window
A time before recorded history; a time before we wrote down our stories, our experiences and our lives with words. More than 5,000 years: that's how much time is covered in the National Museum, New Delhi. It's hard to comprehend that amount of time, and to think that there are so many stories we are still discovering, even as I write this sentence.
Though the National Museum – New Delhi offers several online tours, their collection on calligraphy, opens a new window, which focuses on Arabic-Persian inscriptions, is especially striking. The Art of Calligraphy, a partnership with Google Art & Culture, explores the blend of traditional art forms like carving, weaving and metal work, and the written word, demonstrating their combined significance in everything from science to religion. This incredible selection of photographs are sure to delight and inspire you.
4. Anne Frank House
Once upon a time, we were all young. And we had problems, though perhaps petty ones, that were difficult to resolve because we were not yet grown and still finding our way. This is why, when I read Diary of a Young Girl, opens a new window as a young girl, it was a confusing experience. Anne Frank spoke to me in many ways, I understood her, but despite knowing it to be true it read like fiction to me. This is because I could not properly imagine the context in which the diary had been written. A part of me viciously fought against the idea of Nazis, of war, and of being so afraid for your life that you would hide away like you did not exist.
I am an adult now, and though I can better comprehend the tragedies that humanity can bring upon itself, Anne Frank House has disrupted my emotions. The interactive displays put you in the secret annex. They show you videos of how the entrance to their hiding place was concealed. They let you into the space that was her home for two years before she was discovered and tragedy befell her family. Even though it is a digital display, it is shockingly intimate, and gives the words of Anne's diary new context. It makes her story more real, more true, and that is powerful.
5. The British Museum
You start by staring down a timeline; five columns covered in dots, each labelled by continent, stretching into the digital distance. It reminds me of a music staff, and as I roll my mouse across these dots I am greeted with a cacophony of tinkling bells, as each spot gives out a chime. This little symphony is disorganized and chaotic, and oddly representative of our time on earth.
For the Museum of the World virtual exhibit at The British Museum, I focus in on Africa, and I travel on this virtual staff through this continent's unique culture and history. In the 1800s, I see pottery, glazed in graphite, that were designed for royalty; in the 900s, I see rock art painted by the San people, who are thought to be one of the oldest populations in existence; in 2000BC, I see leather sandals, once worn by a child whose name has been long since forgotten. Each of these items, which are part of the greater symphony, are given clarity and context, and makes this exhibit a must see (and hear).
6. The Palace Museum
When I first looked at the virtual exhibits for The Palace Museum, I was drawn to an exhibit on florals, opens a new window: florals on pottery, in tapestries, in paintings. It was beautiful. It was Spring-like. It was nice. But, my eyes were soon drawn to another: The Gallery of Clocks, opens a new window. These past few weeks we have all been clock watchers: we wait for the time visit friends and family, to go back to work, to have a meal at our favourite restaurant, to make sure people are ok. Quarantine has been a matter of time, and I felt it only right to look at an exhibit that focuses on the passage of it.
With more than 1,500 clocks in their collection, The Palace Museum houses some of the most beautiful and intricate clocks in the world. With the first timepiece coming to the imperial palace some 400 years ago, these precious devices have literally stood the test of time. Perfectly preserved, these antique timepieces remind us that “Clocks may turn back in time, but humans may never dream of doing so.”
7. The National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, DC, United States of America
Black lives matter.
Recent events in the United States and worldwide have underscored the significance of this statement. It is something that needs to be said out loud, it needs to be written down, it needs to be demonstrated and it needs to be seen, because somehow in this age people are still judged first and considered lesser because of the colour of their skin. This is relevant. This is current. This is now. So let me say it again: Black Lives Matter.
The NMAAHC, a part of the Smithsonian Museum, is in Washington, DC not far from the Lincoln Memorial and a short fifteen minute walk from the White House. One of the NMAAHC's digital exhibits is titled A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond, opens a new window. This exhibit details the continuing struggle for justice and equality in our modern society. As protesters march in Washington—in cities across America—this building, dedicated to education and helping African Americans tell their story, stands in the middle of it all. Watching. Watching as their next story is unfolding. It proves that even now history is in the making, and the fight against racism is not yet done.
Looking for more? Check these out:
Google: Arts & Culture Series, opens a new window
Good Housekeeping Magazine: best virtual tours, opens a new window
Business Traveller: Museums offering free virtual tours, opens a new window
History.com: 10 best virtual museum tours from home, opens a new window