Time for virtual museum visits!


Charlotte Bronte’s dress and shoes, from an exhibit at the Morgan Library in New York City


By Caitlin Kelly

Here’s a quick overview of some great museums now showing their works online.

Let’s face it — one of the great joys of living in or near New York or London or Paris or Berlin or Copenhagen or so many cities worldwide — is ready access to its great museums and galleries.

It’s such a luxury to drop into the Met or MOMA or the Tate or the Carnavalet and cruise through, knowing you’ve got all the time in the world, as a resident and not a rushed tourist, to return when you please.

I was so lucky, the last day of my time in D.C., March 8, to see a show of Edgar Degas at the National Gallery. In retrospect, I should not have been in any crowded space! But we didn’t really know that yet.




A detail, taken from the poster outside


It was a fascinating show and I learned a lot about him and how he captured his images of ballerinas, often in the studio. Where he never went! Photography was in use by then and he often, apparently, relied on those images.

And, if you know anything about ballet, there were a few of his paintings that were bizarrely fanciful — like one of a ballerina sitting on (!?) a bass and another sitting on top of the accompanist’s piano.

Nope! No dancer would ever dare.

And now, with tremendous loss of revenue, one of my favorites is truly under siege, unlike the Met which has billionaires on its board. This is the Tenement Museum on the lower East Side.

From The New York Times:


Experts said its loss would be significant because, while many museums chronicle the history of the rich — their mansions, art collections and aesthetic tastes — few depict the history of the poor, and the cultural life of everyday Americans.

“The Tenement Museum has so magnificently reconstructed that,” said Tyler Anbinder, a history professor at George Washington University who specializes in immigration, “right down to the soap boxes and the scouring pads that immigrants used. If an institution like that were to go under, it would be a real tragedy.”

Other museums around the country are losing at least $33 million a day because of coronavirus closures, according to the American Alliance of Museums.

Founded in 1988 in two once-dilapidated buildings, the museum offers tours of the restored tenement rooms as well as a permanent collection of artifacts, including document fragments, photographs and furniture.


I’ve been twice to the Tenement Museum and it was unforgettable.



I went there in my early 20s, on my only visit to Hawaii. I have very few objects from that period…but here it is!


Some of my other favorites include:

The Gulbenkian, Lisbon…small, eclectic, surrounded by beautiful gardens

The Morgan Library, New York

Japan Society, NYC…small, intimate, often overlooked

The Neue Galerie, New York City…Secessionist art

Bishop Museum, Honolulu

The Guimet, Paris…Asian art

The Carnavalet, Paris…the history of Paris

The Cluny, Paris…medieval art

The Imperial War Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert, London

The Prado, Madrid

The Bardo, Tunis….which has an astonishing collection of mosaics

The Sackler, D.C….Asian art

The Canadian Canoe Museum, Peterborough, Ontario….canoes and kayaks!

The Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson

Palazzo Fortuny, Venice…the studio of the legendary textile and lighting designer

Venice Naval Historical Museum…amazing array of boats

The Vasa Museum, Stockholm…devoted to one ship that sunk in Stockholm harbor the morning it first sailed in 1628

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City


What are some of your favorite museums — and why?


14 thoughts on “Time for virtual museum visits!

    1. Love these suggestions — thanks!

      I finally went to the British Museum in July 2017 for a show of Hokusai. So glad I finally went. I also saw a great show at Tate Modern in 2015.

  1. Obviously, I’m big on museums playing to my interests, like the Salem Witch Trials Museum and the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Massachusetts. But I also enjoyed the Cartoon Museum and the Wexner Center at OSU, the latter of which always had something weird and eclectic to check out. The Louvre in Paris and the British Museum were beautiful. There was never enough time to explore either place. The Wewelsburg Castle in Germany was beautiful. It had two main exhibits, one devoted to its history as a whole, and one devoted to its brief usage as an SS camp/Nazi occultism research facility. The Boston Museum of Art was lovely when I was there, and full of many cool statues and paintings. And despite his anti-Semitism, I would love to go anywhere with a Degas exhibit (I am a balletomane, after all).

    1. I forgot to mention the MFA in Boston and the Fogg Art Museum and the Busch-Reisinger….all Boston faves!

      That castle sounds both creepy and interesting. The Cartoon Museum must be pretty cool.

      1. It is! And it has a huge archive as well, some of which you can view online.

        Speaking of Columbus museums, I think the Columbus Museum of Art has a virtual gallery of sorts. So does the Conservatory, and the National Veteran Museum and Memorial here.

        Sadly, the Wexner doesn’t seem to have anything virtual, and a few other places, like the interactive art installation and the science center aren’t doing anything virtual either. I really hope this pandemic doesn’t cause them to close down permanently. They bring so much to the city, and to their visitors as well.

  2. i love that these have been made available during these times. what a wonderful way to pass the time immersed in these amazing collections. your list is impressive and offers many places i have yet to visit. i am still working my way through the smithsonian museums, as i’ve only scratched the surface in person. so excited to visit many new places – thank you

  3. Jan Jasper

    I visited the Tenement Museum years ago with my mother. It was a very moving experience. It made the conditions under which the people lived back then seem vivid and real.

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