Weekly Feature

Louvre Pyramid in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace and is the entry point to the Louvre museum. 

Virtually Visiting Art, Photography, and Music Museums

November 13, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
Some of the world's most famous pieces of art and photography hang on the walls of museums spread around the corners of the globe. Today, with the aid of a computer, you can virtually tour many of these museums without leaving your home. Check out these fabulous sites that feature the world's best art, photography, architecture, and music.

Nice to Look At

It is safe to say that the virtual world cannot compare to the experience of actually wandering the halls of a museum and absorbing the details of its collection: the brush strokes of a painting, the cold feel of a marble sculpture, or the fibers of an ancient tapestry. And although going to France and trying to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa is an experience that won't soon be replicated online, anyone can see the painting in the digital collection of the Louvre.

For a quick (or not so quick) art history lesson consider the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History. This site uses images of pieces from the museum's collection to illustrate the changes in art over time. You can view timelines by region of the world or on a world map (starting with 20,000 B.C. and moving forward to the present day). You can also search the collection by artist or subject if you are looking for a specific piece.

The Museum of Modern Art makes some of its exhibits available for online viewing. New exhibits are featured on the home page along with links to view them online. To view other works from the MoMA, click on "The Collection" on the left navigation bar.

Hold Still

Photographs might be the medium best translated to the digital world, and there is a bevy of them available online. If you have a favorite well-known photograph, chances are good that a quick Google of the title will return a few low-quality online images. You can sample the photography collections of lots of museums online.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago has a particularly appealing Web site. Take a look at the permanent collections to find a list of some notable photographers whose work is at the MoCP. The images at the top of the screen can be scrolled through; you can also click on any image and see more work by the same artist.

The photographs available online aren't limited to the collections of museums. The New York Public Library's Digital Gallery allows you to browse artwork, old photographs of cities and buildings, geographical maps and photos, and images of nature or technology. You can purchase prints of many of the images you find here.

Art + Internet

A few museums commission work to be done in the virtual world. The Tate Online Net Art Programme commissions multimedia (and sometimes interactive) pieces of virtual art Surprisingly, two of the works here (Tate in Space and Uncomfortable Proximity) are an artist's creative mirror of the actual Tate Online Web site. Other works can be viewed as videos (you'll need a Flash Plug-in to view a few), and some rely on the viewer to click and play to create the work.

Building Your Life

The Web is full of sites that catalog where and how we live. The following design and architecture sites are full of the interiors and exteriors of some of the most notable dwellings.

As if it could do any less, the Design Museum of London has created a Web site that is both visually appealing and full of interesting exhibits. The Digital Design Museum section will provide online access to a few exhibits (most notably the Web Wizards - which features some prominent Web designers and their work), the Design at the Design Museum section gives background and biographical information for a selection of architects and designers as well as background for the innovations and materials used in modern design.

The Web Walk on the Skyscraper Museum Web site takes you on a virtual tour of downtown New York City; see pictures and read the history of the buildings and the architects who designed them. You can virtually walk through the current museum exhibits and read excerpts about old exhibits, you'll also find video of lecture series relating to architecture and skyscrapers and a timeline of the world's tallest buildings.

Face the Music

Although some may say that its exterior looks more like an internal organ than the smashed guitar the building is supposed to mimic, Seattle's Experience Music Project houses many important pieces of music history, provides a concert venue for the musicians of today, and plenty of entertaining and interactive exhibits for music enthusiasts. You won't be able to make your own music video or play in the EMP soundlab like you would if you took a trip to Seattle, but you will be able to check out plenty of other features if you visit the EMP Web site.

View the interactive hip hop or guitar model timelines, get a lesson in harmony from the Wilson sisters, or read about the similarities between Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan while you listen to their music. You can even watch famous musicians such as Billy Bragg or Ice-T talk about their craft in the Oral Histories section of the site.

If you are looking for some of history's music greats, try the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web site. There's a picture of a musical artifact on each page of this site (think Little Richard's velvet jacket or Chuck Berry's electric guitar) - click on the image and you'll be taken to the biography and musical achievement timeline of its owner (you could waste hours just reading through these). In the "Backstage Pass" section of the site you'll be able to find out what happened on this day in rock and roll history.

If you want to see some lesser-known instruments, and avoid the glitz of famous musicians, you might enjoy exploring Wesleyan University's Virtual Museum of Instruments. What this museum lacks in number of instruments, it makes up for in quality of presentation. Many of the instruments catalogued in this virtual museum have accompanying photographs, audio files and even video of someone playing the instrument.

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