Virtual Museum Tours
Originally published in TEACH Magazine, March/April 2021 Issue
Although many museums remain closed for in-person field trips during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual exhibitions can be a fun and engaging alternative—with the right online content. Here are 15 of the best virtual museum options currently available, with guided audio and video tours, artist and curator Q&As, behind the scenes exclusives, and additional teaching materials and activities. All available for free! (Educators can also check out Google Arts & Culture for an inside look at over 2,000 museums.)
1. American Museum of Natural History
New York, NY
The museum offers field trips for students of all grades. Each trip includes a modular Teacher’s Guide with core activities as well as optional extension activities. Be sure to check out the additional Learning Resources on the website as well!
2. The Art Institute of Chicago
Educators can find lesson plans, along with art and writing activities on the Art Institute’s website. It also includes virtual gallery tours, interactive features, behind-the-scenes videos, and more.
3. The British Museum
Virtual visits to the British Museum are available for UK students in Grades 7–11. Each virtual visit uses activities, interactive quizzes, and thought-provoking questions to help students develop their historical inquiry skills. The museum also offers classroom resources for students of all ages.
4. The Bronx Museum of the Arts
New York, NY
The Bronx Museum’s Education Department has created several virtual series to help children learn more about the museum and its exhibits. From art-making activities, to virtual tours, to artist interviews, there’s plenty of material to share with students.
5. Canadian Museum of History
Teachers can explore the museum’s list of virtual programs, activity suggestions, online modules, and more through the Canadian Museum of History website. The museum has also created a free hands-on learning experience to bring historical artifacts into the classroom! Check out the History Box page for more details.
6. Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Choose from seven different field trips designed to help students explore and discuss human rights issues. The Human Rights Museum also offers a variety of teaching resources, along with several resource playlists. Virtual tours of two museum galleries are available as well, with accompanying unit plans for Grades 5–8 and 9–12.
7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY
#MetKids is an online resource created with, by, and for kids ages 7–12 as a way to explore The Met from home. The webpage includes an interactive map, videos, and projects, and even a Time Machine to show artifacts from different time periods. Note that the museum offers learning resources (including lesson plans) for educators as well.
8. Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY
Explore a wide variety of virtual exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art. MoMa also offers plenty of online resources to support K–12 teachers.
9. The National Gallery
The National Gallery has created a number of feature films and stories to showcase various works of art, art tutorials, and talks from the gallery’s curators. Educators can also find online resources, workshops, and interactive talks for primary and secondary students.
10. National Women’s History Museum
This innovative digital museum brings to life the stories of countless women throughout history. Introduce students to some of these stories using the museum’s digital classroom resources, which can be organized by topic, grade level, and resource type. Or browse the virtual exhibits to discover tales of trailblazing women from both the past and the present.
11. Pacific Museum of Earth
The Pacific Museum of Earth is an earth science museum located at the University of British Columbia. It offers several virtual field trips for students of all ages, as well as additional educator resources.
Learn about Dutch history and art through the Rijkmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands. Students can take a virtual tour, browse the museum’s online collection, or even compare pop culture with art through the museum’s “Is This Art?” video series.
13. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Teachers can register for free digital school programs designed for students of all ages. The Museum of Natural History also provides teaching and distance learning resources.
14. Solomon R. Guggenheim
New York, NY
The Guggenheim’s virtual tours are free for K–12 schools in New York City. Each hour-long tour incorporates three to five works of art, as well as activities that are designed to further student interaction with the art.
15. Van Gogh Museum
This museum holds the world’s largest collection of artwork by Van Gogh. Its website contains plenty of virtual resources for students and teachers to explore—such as stories about Van Gogh, a painting tutorial video series, and a 4K virtual tour of the museum. Educators can also utilize the various teaching resources to help bring Van Gogh and his works into the classroom.